The Department of Defense announced today the initial results of a new satisfaction survey designed to document patients' experiences with health care providers in military treatment facilities (MTF).
Overall, the satisfaction ratings were higher than that recorded for civilian patients visiting health maintenance organizations.
Under contract to the Department, United Healthcare and its subcontractor, National Research Corporation (NRC), are conducting these surveys which will allow the military medical system to compare its patient satisfaction within the system as well as with other health plans both nationally and locally.
Civilian comparisons come from interviews NRC conducts each year with 130,000 individuals in civilian health plans using these same standardized survey items.
The five main areas of the survey focus on satisfaction with clinics, with medical care, access, quality of care and interpersonal relationships.
The area which received the highest edge over civilian ratings was Interpersonal Relationships. On a five point scale, military MTF providers were rated a half a point higher than the civilian sector (4.0 or very good vice 3.5 for civilians).
Survey questions in this area ask how the provider relates to the patient, courtesy, attention to what the patient says, personal interest in medical problems, advice on how to avoid illness and the amount of time spent with the patient.
More important than the civilian comparisons, this survey will allow MTF commanders to monitor each of their individual clinics' performance over time and to compare themselves to similar MTFs.
Dr. Edward D. Martin, acting assistant secretary of Defense for Health Affairs, said, "This survey will provide valid, reliable and timely information on access, quality of care and interpersonal relationships.
We believe such information is vital to focusing our numerous efforts to improve management of the Military Health Services System (MHSS)."
The survey is being mailed each month to about 75,000 patients, randomly identified from records of the Composite Health Care System and the Ambulatory Data System.
Patients selected should receive the survey between 30 and 50 days after their clinic appointment and are asked to complete the 17 multiple choice questions and return the information within two weeks.
A reminder post card will be sent to these individuals 10 days after the survey is mailed, and replacements will be provided if requested.
After the post card is mailed, patient specifics are eliminated from the survey data base except age group, sex and beneficiary category.
Patient anonymity is maintained throughout the process.
Martin stated that "One of our top priorities in military health care today is to focus on those things that will cause our patients to want to choose military medicine.
To do that, we must know what our beneficiaries think about their health care; from the details of a specific visit to the more general perspective of how the system is responding to their needs.
We need to hear what we are doing well and what needs improvement."
Awards were presented at a recent TRICARE conference to each Service Clinic, Hospital, and Medical Center receiving the highest overall rating.
Army recipients were Dunham Army Health Clinic, Carlisle Barracks, Pa., Bassett Army Community Hospital, Ft. Wainwright, Alaska, and Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Washington, D.C.
Top awards for the Navy went to Naval Medical Clinic, New Orleans, Naval Hospital, Patuxent River, Md, and the National Naval Medical Center, Bethesda, Md.
Air Force awards were presented to 437th Medical Group at Charleston AFB, S.C., 9th Medical Group at Beale AFB, Calif., and the 375th Medical Group at Scott AFB, Ill.
The approximately 2,100 military clinics in the United States that see more than 200 outpatients each month are participating.
Military Treatment Facilities receive monthly reports, based on the previous three months of data; higher levels in the chain of command receive reports quarterly.
All written comments are forwarded to the MTFs.