A new survey tool focused on relationships among members of a clinic staff is not only holding up to measurement scrutiny, but is indicating a direct correlation between the quality of staff working relationships and patient satisfaction.
The study appears in the latest issue of The Annals of Family Medicine, and describes the development of the Work Relationship Scale (WRS), a 19-item questionnaire focused on "the perceived quality of work relationships" among clinic staff. Questionnaires were administered to all staff in 17 Veterans Administration (VA) primary care clinics in south and central Texas. A total of 457 staff completed the survey, with 247 staff members participating in semistructured interviews. Statistical reviews confirmed the validity of the WRS as a measurement tool.
When researchers compared the questionnaire results to the results of the VA Survey of Healthcare Experiences of Patients (SHEP) for the same clinics, they found a significant correlation between high WRS scores and patients' positive ratings in the areas of "overall rating of personal doctor/nurse" and "overall rating of health care." The authors wrote that "Clinic member relationships appear to have a significant impact on patient perceptions of care and should be assessed as part of efforts to improve delivery."
And what makes for a high-scoring clinic? According to the report, "considerable differences emerged in patterns of communication and relating" between the low and high-scoring clinics, with low scorers more likely to rely heavily on e-mail for communication, and high scorers tending to use more face-to-face communication. High-scoring clinics also demonstrated a level of trust and ease in communication throughout all staff roles, while low-scoring clinics reported "reservations" about relationships with less directly-related staff and upper level management.
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