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Arch Pathol Lab Med. 2003 Jan;127(1):23-9.

Customer satisfaction in anatomic pathology. A College of American Pathologists Q-Probes study of 3065 physician surveys from 94 laboratories.

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  • 1Department of Pathology, Henry Ford Hospital, Detroit, Mich 48202, USA.



Measurement of physicians' and patients' satisfaction with laboratory services has recently become a requirement of health care accreditation agencies in the United States. To our knowledge, this is the first customer satisfaction survey of anatomic pathology services to provide a standardized tool and benchmarks for subsequent measures of satisfaction.


This Q-Probes study assessed physician satisfaction with anatomic pathology laboratory services and sought to determine characteristics that correlate with a high level of physician satisfaction.


In January 2001, each laboratory used standardized survey forms to assess physician customer satisfaction with 10 specific elements of service in anatomic pathology and an overall satisfaction rating based on a scale of rankings from a 5 for excellent to a 1 for poor. Data from up to 50 surveys returned per laboratory were compiled and analyzed by the College of American Pathologists. A general questionnaire collected information about types of services offered and each laboratory's quality assurance initiatives to determine characteristics that correlate with a high level of physician satisfaction.


Hospital-based laboratories in the United States (95.8%), as well as others from Canada and Australia.


Ninety-four voluntary subscriber laboratories in the College of American Pathologists Q-Probes quality improvement program participated in this survey. Roughly 70% of respondents were from hospitals with occupied bedsizes of 300 or less, 65% were private nonprofit institutions, just over half were located in cities, one third were teaching hospitals, and 19% had pathology residency training programs.


Overall physician satisfaction with anatomic pathology and 10 selected aspects of the laboratory service (professional interaction, diagnostic accuracy, pathologist responsiveness to problems, pathologist accessibility for frozen section, tumor board presentations, courtesy of secretarial and technical staff, communication of relevant information, teaching conferences and courses, notification of significant abnormal results, and timeliness of reporting).


The database of 3065 physician surveys was derived from 94 laboratories. An average of 32.6 surveys (median 30) was returned per institution, with a range of 5 to 50 surveys per institution. The mean response rate was 35.6% (median 32.5%). The median (50th percentile) laboratory had an overall median satisfaction score of 4.4. The lowest satisfaction scores that were obtained all related to poor communication, which included timeliness of reporting, communication of relevant information, and notification of significant abnormal results. Statistically significant associations of customer satisfaction with certain institutional characteristics and laboratory performance improvement activities were identified.


The importance of this satisfaction survey lies not in its requirement as an exercise for accrediting agencies but in understanding the needs of the customer (in this case the physician) to direct performance improvement in the delivery of quality anatomic pathology laboratory services.

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