WASHINGTON -- Factors other than receipt of painkillers - including opiates - in the emergency department appear to be more important to patient satisfaction, as reflected in an analysis of Press Ganey® patient surveys to be published online today in Annals of Emergency Medicine ("Lack of Association between Press Ganey® Emergency Department Patient Satisfaction Scores and Emergency Department Administration of Analgesic Medications").
"The lack of connection between painkillers and patient satisfaction is frankly the opposite of what we expected to find," said lead study author Tayler Schwartz of Alpert Medical School at Brown University in Providence, R.I. "Our research shows that emergency physicians can administer painkillers, including opiates, based on clinical and patient factors without concern for the effect on patient satisfaction scores."
Ms. Schwartz and her team analyzed Press Ganey® patient satisfaction surveys and electronic medical records for 4,749 patients discharged from two hospitals. Of those patients, 48.5 percent received analgesic medications in the emergency department, and of the patients who received analgesics, 60.9 percent received opiates.
After controlling for different variables, researchers found no relationship between Press Ganey® emergency department patient satisfaction scores and the receipt of analgesic medications or opiate analgesics. Higher patient satisfaction scores were connected to increasing age and male gender.
In some emergency departments, physician compensation is linked to patient satisfaction scores, which can exert pressure on physicians to comply with patient requests, even if those requests are medically unreasonable.
"The majority of emergency patients are in pain and emergency physicians face multiple challenges when treating them, including pressure to get high patient satisfaction scores," said Ms. Schwartz. "If emergency physicians believe that prescribing opiates will lead to high Press Ganey® satisfaction scores, they may be conflicted about what and how much to prescribe. Our study shows that while pain relief is a factor in patient satisfaction, it is far from the most important one."
Annals of Emergency Medicine is the peer-reviewed scientific journal for the American College of Emergency Physicians, the national medical society representing emergency medicine. ACEP is committed to advancing emergency care through continuing education, research, and public education. Headquartered in Dallas, Texas, ACEP has 53 chapters representing each state, as well as Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia. A Government Services Chapter represents emergency physicians employed by military branches and other government agencies. For more information, visit http://www.