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Introduction  This article comprises two parts describing a research project for validating quality monitoring tools. This is part 1.

Aim  To examine the problems of patient satisfaction inquiries by means of the literature, earlier research and an example.

Background  The topic is of current interest, since quality management by way of research-based knowledge has become an increasingly common demand. In this context, patient satisfaction inquiries are a central method of data collection. Although the problems relating to the reliability of the methods and results of these inquiries have been identified, their comprehensive examination is yet to be done. Quality management is none the less a challenge to nursing administrators requiring a broad-based utilization of feedback data, and this calls for a critical examination of the reliability of these results.

Methods  The exemplary material were collected using a questionnaire from patients (n = 282) on three different hospital wards. Different statistical methods and content analysis were used in the analysis.

Findings  The example used in the study indicates that the results of the inquiry were highly positive time after time. The reliability of the instrument presented a problem. The low amount of information collected in the open-ended question was another problem that can be criticised in relation to the amount of work required in the analysis. The results of the factor analysis showed that the questionnaire needs further development.

Conclusions  To conclude, patient satisfaction inquiries yield a relatively small and limited amount of information on quality management and improvement, but this information is necessary specifically for ward sisters for the follow-up of long-term trends in patient satisfaction. The second part of this article (part 2) examines the description of patient satisfaction by means of triangulation.