Patient satisfaction is measured at all levels of the Australian health system. However, these activities are not guided by formal national policy, nor is there a uniform approach to measuring patient satisfaction. While the reasons for exploring patient satisfaction are widely supported and can be easily documented, the construct of patient satisfaction itself remains ambiguous. Although health practitioners frequently refer to patient satisfaction when evaluating health care services; it is not clear if practitioners share a clear perspective or understanding about the meaning of the construct. Exploring the practitioner’s own understanding of what is meant by patient satisfaction is a critical first step before any comparative analysis between the practitioners’ understanding, the dimensionality of measurement tools, and the beliefs of the consumer can be conducted. This paper explores Australian health practitioners’ understanding of patient satisfaction. A convenience sample of 29 staff representing 17 hospitals from across Australian States and Territories consented to participate in a series of focus groups. Systematic ethnographic summary and content analysis revealed 15 themes which health practitioners considered important in making a patient’s hospital stay satisfactory. However, health practitioners, even those involved with measuring patient satisfaction, struggled to either define patient satisfaction or clarify what the phenomenon meant empirically. While hospitals commonly report the outcomes of evaluating patient satisfaction, this research suggests that the value of such reports in everyday practice may be limited by confusion and ambiguity.
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