RATIONALE, AIMS AND OBJECTIVES - Evaluation of physician performance is increasingly based on patient satisfaction. However, few data are available regarding the extent to which individual physician profiles might be influenced by factors such as whether a physician's practice is open or closed. We evaluated whether panel status (whether or not a physician is accepting new patients) is associated with patient satisfaction with their primary care physician (PCP).
METHODS - Cross-sectional analysis of patient satisfaction surveys. Surveys were available for 1,750 patients cared for by 69 PCPs. Patient satisfaction with their PCP was determined based on a composite of six questions derived from the Medical Outcomes Study. We used Generalized Estimating Equations to adjust for physician level variation.
RESULTS - Patients of closed-panel physicians were more likely to rate their satisfaction with the provider as 'Excellent' or 'Very Good' compared to patients of open-panel physicians (78% vs. 69%, P <0.0001). After adjusting for satisfaction with the practice site, provider years in practice, managed care coverage, provider productivity, and patient race, the association between a closed panel and satisfaction remained significant (odds ratio 1.60, 95% confidence interval 1.10-2.31).
CONCLUSIONS - Individual physicians' patient satisfaction data are confounded by factors not likely to be adjusted for in available profiles. After adjusting for other variables, physicians with closed panels still had better patient satisfaction compared to physicians with open panels. Further research is necessary to determine if panel status might also confound patient satisfaction.