Higher employee satisfaction associated with improved patient care

Veterans Affairs Medical Centers (VAMC) with higher levels of employee organizational satisfaction also tend to have higher safety scores and patient satisfaction ratings, according to new research published in the American Journal of Medicine.

“Employee satisfaction is thought to impact performance,” wrote lead author Sandra L. Wong, MD, of the Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, New Hampshire, and colleagues. “However, which aspects of employee satisfaction matter most is unknown.” 

Interestingly, VAMCs have had their share of problems with employees and performance. A review of VAMCs showed the VA did not report disciplinary action taken against providers and delayed reviews of complaints against physicians.

Wong and colleagues used data from the VAMC’s Strategic Analytics for Improvement and Learning program to assess the connection between organizational satisfaction and job-specific satisfaction—measuring patient safety, patient satisfaction and hospital rating. Employee satisfaction data was obtained using a Likert survey.

Overall, the researchers found employee job-specific satisfaction does not correlate with patient outcomes. However, higher satisfaction with the organization is associated with improved patient safety and correlates with all aspects of patient satisfaction, primary care and specialty care. The Likert scale survey also found:

  • The average employee satisfaction with the organization was 3.5.
  • The average job-specific satisfaction was 3.8.
  • Both employee satisfaction and job-specific satisfaction are “highly correlated” at the facility level.
  • Job-specific satisfaction showed no statistically significant correlation with patient safety, patient ratings of the hospital, primary care or specialty care.
  • Employee satisfaction with the organization was higher at higher-quality VAMCs, compared to medium- or low-quality facilities.
  • The average employee job-specific satisfaction was higher at higher-quality VAMCs, compared to medium- or low-quality facilities.

“It would appear that health systems working to improve patient outcomes via improving employee satisfaction should focus on organizational satisfaction as opposed to job-specific satisfaction,” the researchers wrote.

Still, higher organizational care is associated with improved patient care at VAMCs. Additionally, VAMCs with the highest level of overall quality have employees who are more satisfied with both the organization and their specific job, compared with employees who serve at lower-quality facilities.