Comparison of Primary Care Patients’ and Unannounced Standardized Patients’ Perceptions of Care

By: Lisa Altshuler
Submitted by: Marsha Harman, Rush Center for Clinical Skills and Simulation

In my own conversations with SPs and other SP educators, we have often discussed how SP work alters our perceptions of our real-life patient experience and makes us better advocates for ourselves and our family members when navigating the healthcare system. This article takes a more concrete look at the difference between SPs’ and real patients’ perceptions of care. 

The objective of this study was to compare unannounced standardized patient (USP) and patient reports of care. Patient satisfaction surveys and USP checklist results collected at an urban, public hospital were compared to identify items included in both surveys. Qualitative commentary was reviewed to better understand USP and patient satisfaction survey data. Results of this study indicate that real patients tended to provide higher ratings on patient satisfaction and experience measures than USPs. USPs provide detailed, critical, and objective evaluations of the entire clinical encounter, enhancing efforts to further understand and improve the experience of real patients in clinical settings. USPs are a useful tool for answering quality improvement-oriented questions and may provide more nuanced information about clinicians and the clinical systems than real patients, though they are not a substitute.

Read the full article in Journal of Patient Experience here.

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