Rural healthcare assessment: identifying gaps between service and expectations

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Montana State University - Bozeman, College of Engineering


This research project aims to improve patient satisfaction for customers in same-day clinics in rural areas, with emphasis on healthcare services and facilities at Native American Reservations. This project examined potential gaps between clinical staff services and the expectations of the patients. Due to the remote location and low-income level of the community, it is critical for patients to receive care at local healthcare facilities and not have to travel to other facilities for the same care. The low Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) satisfaction scores also lead to less funding to the facility as well as lower-ranking in accreditation by Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). Utilizing survey tools and statistical analysis from Industrial and Management Systems Engineering the study looked to understand expectations on both sides. The initial phase used four open-ended questions along with a series of multiple-choice questions that were given to participants, both patients and staff. Data collected in the first phase showed a possible disconnect between the patients and staff from their responses. It also allowed the patients to rate service prior to the visit. Results showed some areas could have potential improvement but also the performance of staff is overall doing well with what they can control. The second phase revealed a more aligned view between the patients and staff in a ranking survey compiled from the first phase of the research. The ranking information allowed nonparametric testing to see if there existed statistically significant differences between the two groups. Results showed one significantly different item and two others that were borderline. The Service Value Gaps are not as prominent in this single clinic to warrant an in-depth improvement process. More information should be collected through other clinics to allow larger sample size to gain additional insight if multiple gaps exist. The items of actual or near significance were not a higher priority to either group.




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