MS Patients Report Similar Satisfaction With Physician, Nurse Care

By Steve Cimino

When it comes to treating patients with multiple sclerosis (MS), a new study shows that physicians and nurse practitioners (NPs) score similarly in regard to patient satisfaction.

“The findings of this pilot study are preliminary and need further studies to validate them, however initial findings suggest comparable satisfaction scores regardless of type of provider in established patients at MS centers,” wrote Smitha Mary Thotam, DNP, of the Stony Brook (N.Y.) University Medical Center and Marijean Buhse, PhD, of the Stony Brook School of Nursing. Their study was published in the International Journal of MS Care.

To compare patient satisfaction with both nurses and physicians in light of the shortage of neurologists, the researchers began a cross-sectional pilot study of adult MS patients from two care centers on Long Island, New York. Thirty of the patients were seen by a physician and the other 30 were seen by an NP. The patients were assessed at the time of their visit via the Patient Satisfaction Questionnaire (PSQ-18)and a Visit-Specific Satisfaction Instrument (VSQ-9). The patients’ mean age was 52.8 years old, and they averaged 13.7 years since being diagnosed with MS, with a range of 2-35 years.

They also averaged 11.3 years of being treated at their current practice, with a range of 2-30 years. All 60 patients had health insurance.

Satisfaction on all surveys was high: 87% of scores on the PSQ-18 were rated as “satisfied” or “very satisfied,” and the mean of all VSQ-9 scores was 81% (on a scale of 1-100). According to PSQ-18 scores, no significant difference was found between the two patient groups in general satisfaction (P = .07), technical quality (P = .25), interpersonal manner (P = .42), communication (P = .23), financial aspects (P = .15) or accessibility, and convenience (P = .98). There also was no difference in overall visit satisfaction via VSQ-9 scores (P = .97).

The average visit time was 26 minutes for physicians and 27 minutes for NPs, and 88% of clinicians in both groups spent 20 minutes or more with their patients. Spending fewer than 20 minutes with a patient led to a significant difference in VSQ-9 score (P = .01) that was similar for both groups. On average and regardless of the clinician, patients with 10 years of illness or more reported being more satisfied via VSQ-9 scores (P = .011).

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The authors noted their study’s limitations, including a small sample size from just two MS centers and the participants being established patients of centers in suburban communities, which limited extrapolating the findings to rural or urban areas.

They also emphasized that it was “not a hypothesis testing study, it was an exploratory study,” noting that future studies will include a power analysis and a larger sample size. Finally, they acknowledged that the next version of this study should include physician assistants – “another fast-growing provider group with similar outcome goals.”

The authors reported no conflicts of interest.