Healthcare systems are increasingly focusing on outcomes that are the endpoints of care: patient health status and patient satisfaction. The availability of patient satisfaction (PS) data has encouraged research on its relationship with other outcomes, such as mortality. In Italy, an inter-regional performance evaluation system (IRPES) provides 13 regional healthcare systems with a multidimensional assessment of appropriateness, efficiency, financial sustainability, effectiveness, and equity. For university hospitals, IRPES includes the percentage of patients leaving hospital against medical advice (PLHAMA) and mortality rates at the ward level. This paper investigates the relationship between PS and PLHAMA across and within regional healthcare systems in Italy. Secondly, PLHAMA is used as a PS proxy to investigate its relationship with mortality at the ward level in the IRPES university hospitals.
PLHAMA and mortality rates were gathered from administrative data, and PS scores from patient surveys. We explored the association between PS and PLHAMA through a correlation analysis, using data for the 13 IRPES regions. We tested this relationship also at the clinical directorate level in 28 hospitals in Tuscany (5482 interviewed patients in 100 clinical directorates). Secondly, we explored the association between PLHAMA and mortality at the ward level through correlation and regression analyses, using data of 405 wards of eight clinical specialties within 24 IRPES university hospitals.
Lower PLHAMA rates were associated with a higher PS in both regional and clinical directorate levels. A positive association between PLHAMA and mortality was shown at the ward level for IRPES university hospitals, with different results for medical and surgical clinical specialties.
PS is an important performance dimension that provides healthcare managers and professionals with useful insights for improving care quality and effectiveness. Based on the study results, the PLHAMA rate could be regularly measured to highlight patient dissatisfaction. Due to the association between PLHAMA and mortality, this study also provides evidence of the importance of the patient perspective in assessing the quality of healthcare services. This relationship proved to be significant for surgical clinical units, suggesting the need for further analysing outcomes considering their different determinants in medical and surgical care.