In his seminal work on health care quality, Avedis Donabedian noted that patient satisfaction was a key indicator of health care quality, and in the 1970s and 1980s a great deal of research explored the determinants of patient satisfaction. Subsequently, attention shifted toward assessing care experiences, and there is now a large body of evidence related to the reliability and validity of survey-based assessments of care. As the use of such surveys has increased, so too have concerns about the validity and uses of such surveys. The available research, however, indicates that such surveys are reliable, valid, correlated across individuals and settings with other quality indicators, and predictive of better outcomes. Patient experiences are now routinely measured, and substantial effort is being devoted to providing high-quality patient-centered care. Providing patient-centered care need not divert resources away from other quality improvement efforts. Improving the infrastructure supporting certain aspects of care may have broad effects because system changes can influence multiple outcomes. Thus, rather than detract from general quality improvement efforts, making changes that facilitate patient-centered care may lead to broader improvements. There is good reason to be optimistic that our health care system will increasingly be “patient centered.”

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