Parents were most satisfied with care their children received for upper respiratory infections when the parents perceived that most, or all elements of expected parent-doctor communication occurred. Communications noted by trained observers but unrecognized by parents had no effect on parent satisfaction.
Research has shown communication is a key component of patients’ satisfaction with health care; and satisfaction is regarded as an indicator of care quality. This novel survey was designed to determine whether parent perception of certain communications was as important as whether the communications actually occurred. After a visit to a pediatrician with a child confirmed to have an upper respiratory infection, parents completed a survey indicating whether four specific issues, previously identified as leading to parent satisfaction, had been discussed. Later, two trained observers viewed video of each visit and recorded whether those issues had been covered. The study involved 517 patient visits between October 2000 and June 2001 with 38 pediatricians in Los Angeles County, Calif. Only English-speaking parents were surveyed.
Although this study is limited to parents of patients with upper respiratory illness, the results suggest that how information is presented is more important to parent/patient satisfaction than the specific content of what a doctor says. Doctors must find ways to successfully engage with parents in a limited time. Further research may help identify what makes for effective communication with patients.