Which kind of psychometrics is adequate for patient satisfaction questionnaires?
Trimberg Research Academy, University of Bamberg, Bamberg, Germany
Abstract: The construction and psychometric analysis of patient satisfaction questionnaires are discussed. The discussion is based upon the classification of multi-item questionnaires into scales or indices. Scales consist of items that describe the effects of the latent psychological variable to be measured, and indices consist of items that describe the causes of this variable. Whether patient satisfaction questionnaires should be constructed and analyzed as scales or as indices depends upon the purpose for which these questionnaires are required. If the final aim is improving care with regard to patients’ preferences, then these questionnaires should be constructed and analyzed as indices. This implies two requirements: 1) items for patient satisfaction questionnaires should be selected in such a way that the universe of possible causes of patient satisfaction is covered optimally and 2) Cronbach’s alpha, principal component analysis, exploratory factor analysis, confirmatory factor analysis, and analyses with models from item response theory, such as the Rasch Model, should not be applied for psychometric analyses. Instead, multivariate regression analyses with a direct rating of patient satisfaction as the dependent variable and the individual questionnaire items as independent variables should be performed. The coefficients produced by such an analysis can be applied for selecting the best items and for weighting the selected items when a sum score is determined. The lower boundaries of the validity of the unweighted and the weighted sum scores can be estimated by their correlations with the direct satisfaction rating. While the first requirement is fulfilled in the majority of the previous patient satisfaction questionnaires, the second one deviates from previous practice. Hence, if patient satisfaction is actually measured with the final aim of improving care with regard to patients’ preferences, then future practice should be changed so that the second requirement is also fulfilled.
Keywords: patient satisfaction, questionnaires, psychometrics, reliability, validity, measurement, methodology
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