Does satisfaction reflect the technical quality of mental health care?
OBJECTIVE: To analyze the relationship between satisfaction and technical quality of care for common mental disorders. DATA SOURCE: A nationally representative telephone survey of 9,585 individuals conducted in 1997-1998. STUDY DESIGN: Using multinomial logistic regression techniques we investigated the association between a five-level measure of satisfaction with the mental health care available for personal or emotional problems and two quality indicators. The first measure, appropriate technical quality, was defined as use of either appropriate counseling or psychotropic medications during the prior year for a probable depressive or anxiety disorder. The second, active treatment, indicated whether the respondent had received treatment for a psychiatric disorder in the past year. Covariates included measures of physical and mental health and sociodemographic indicators. PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: Appropriate technical quality of care was significantly associated with higher levels of satisfaction. The strength of the association was moderate. CONCLUSIONS: Satisfaction is associated with technical quality of care. However, profiling quality of care with satisfaction will likely require large samples and case-mix adjustment, which may be more difficult for plans or provider groups to implement than measuring technical indicators. More importantly, satisfaction is not the same as technical quality, and our results suggest that at this time they cannot be made to approach each other closely enough to eliminate either