Background It has been shown that poor patient satisfaction can lead to poor adherence to treatment with consequently poor health outcomes. In order to improve the quality of care perceived by the patient and thus the health outcome, it is important to understand which are the main factors influencing patient satisfaction.
Objectives To examine factors associated with patient satisfaction with care among dermatological out-patients.
Methods This longitudinal study is based on a sample of dermatology out-patients. The independent effects on patient's satisfaction of patient characteristics (sociodemographic characteristics, disease severity, quality of life) and of specific aspects of provided health care (the time the physician spent with patients, physician's interpersonal skills, etc.) were examined by multiple logistic regression.
Results A total of 1389 out-patients were selected at random and invited to participate. Of the 722 patients who agreed to participate, 424 fulfilled the inclusion criteria and 396 of these patients (93·4%) completed the study. Overall satisfaction was reported by 60·0% of patients. The likelihood of overall satisfaction was found to be significantly and independently increased by the physician's ability to give explanations and to show empathy for the patient's condition, and by the older age of patients. The likelihood of satisfaction also increased with increasing disease severity, but decreased with symptom-related poor quality of life. The lowest level of satisfaction was found among patients whose symptom-related quality of life was worse than the clinical severity rated by the dermatologist.
Conclusions Improving the physician's interpersonal skills can increase patient satisfaction, which is likely to have a positive effect on treatment adherence and health outcomes. Dermatologists succeeded better in establishing a good relationship with clinically more severely affected patients than with patients who were clinically mildly affected despite their quality of life being impaired. Thus, the inclusion of a patient-rated quality of life can be a useful measure in dermatology, as it enables clinicians to perceive the patients' perception of their health status.