• service quality improvement;
  • outpatient departments;
  • patient views;
  • health services

Measurement of outpatients' views of service quality in a Finnish university hospital

Aims of the study. To describe the development of service quality in the surgical and medical outpatient departments of a university hospital.

Rationale. Measurement and documentation of service quality and the use of these data as a basis for improvement are prerequisites for service improvement.

Methods. A survey conducted over a 3-week period using a 12-item questionnaire measuring service quality on a rating scale from 4 to 10 (extremely poor – excellent quality). Nineteen outpatient departments participated at a Finnish university hospital, 7679 voluntary patients visiting the outpatient departments between 1997 and 1999 completed the questionnaires.

Results. The questionnaire, which has not been described in use previously, proved to be a good tool enabling systematic access to patient feedback on service quality in outpatient departments. The instrument allowed the detection of strengths of the service provided by a large organization and long-term trends from patients' perspective. Patient evaluations were mainly good and the results improved year by year, although the instrument was built on questions concerning issues that were rated poorest by patients. The poorest ratings were related to access to information and adherence to appointment times.

Conclusions. The service quality instrument offers a means to generate information to be used for service quality improvement in outpatient departments.