Nuclear medicine patient survey finds mixed results

2013 11 19 10 46 24 688 Egyptian Flag 200

Researchers from Egypt studied patient satisfaction at a nuclear medicine department and found that while the patients were satisfied with the department's infrastructure, they didn't like wait times and how they were informed of their procedures. Changes have already been made in response to the survey.

Nuclear medicine is one of the most dynamic areas of medicine, with constantly evolving technology. Quality improvement in nuclear medicine departments should emphasize the accuracy and efficiency of patient care, patient and staff safety, and the patient's experience during care, noted the authors of the study (Egyptian Journal of Radiology and Nuclear Medicine, March 2014, Vol. 45:1, pp. 219-224).

Patient response to our nuclear medicine department services is varied, said lead author Dr. Maged Abdel Galil Hamed, lecturer of radiodiagnosis at Zagazig University in Egypt, in an interview with

Improving service

While quality improvement has become something of a mantra in Western hospitals, it's still a relatively novel idea in the Middle East. In an attempt to address this situation, Hamed consulted with experts on how to improve the department's service to patients, and the initial action was to assess patient satisfaction levels.

Hamed and a colleague used questionnaires adapted from the U.K. National Health Service to evaluate patient satisfaction with services at the nuclear medicine department at Al-Ahrar Hospital in Zagazig. The study was conducted over a period of four months from September to December 2012.

The researchers distributed a total of 400 questionnaires and had a response rate of 60%. The questionnaire consisted of 25 questions, including queries about sociodemographic characteristics (age, gender, and education), as well as the health status of the patients.

The researchers assessed patient experience before their actual examination in three main areas:

  • How long they had to wait from the time of the appointment until the time the test was performed
  • Whether they had the option to choose the appointment based on their needs
  • Their satisfaction with the information provided to them prior to the exam

Some questions addressed the nuclear medicine department in general, including whether it was easy to find upon arrival at the hospital, the degree of the politeness in the department, and if the patient was informed about expected wait times. Other queries addressed the comfort level of the department. Patient opinions were solicited about the availability and comfort of free seats, the suitability of the temperature and noise in the waiting room, and the cleanliness of the department and toilet.

Dr. Maged Abdel Galil Hamed from Zagazig University.Dr. Maged Abdel Galil Hamed from Zagazig University.
Dr. Maged Abdel Galil Hamed from Zagazig University.

When it came to the medical professionals working in the department, the researchers asked if hospital personnel gave patients information about the test they were to receive, if any different information was given to them by other professionals, if patients had the opportunity to ask questions about the test, and if the medical staff ensured the confidentiality of patient information as well as their privacy during the test. The researchers also asked the name and professional category of the staff who attended to them.

Finally, the overall impression of the nuclear medicine department was evaluated, including general satisfaction and whether the patient would recommend the department to another patient.

Slightly more than half of the respondents were female (53.2%), and the mean age of the patients surveyed was 46. Approximately one-third of the patients were illiterate (31.6%), and 22% were primary-educated, which is comparable with the level of education in Egypt. In addition, 23.2% of those surveyed were highly educated, and the remaining 23.2% had a diploma.

Regarding the health status of the study sample, the authors noted that 58.4% were suffering from difficulty in performing activities of daily life. This may be explained by the fact that most of the patients in the nuclear medicine department had a malignancy or chronic renal or cardiac disease.

According to the survey results, causes of low satisfaction among the patients included information provided about waiting time, information provided before the exam, and receiving conflicting information. The low educational level of the patients, coupled with the fact that many nuclear medicine procedures involve multiple steps, could explain some of this discontent.

Also, patients were not satisfied with the department's cleanliness and noise levels, nor were they satisfied with the gap between the appointment time and when the exam was actually performed. This observation agrees with previous research that indicates waiting time is an important component of patient satisfaction.

A patient's gender, level of education, and health status significantly affected his or her overall impression of the nuclear medicine department, and gender and education level also significantly affected whether patients would recommend the department to the others, the study authors noted.

Changes made

Hamed explained that the researchers have made several changes to the department in response to the study's findings.

For example, they improved the registration and booking system by installing new software through a local IT company. Some imaging protocols have been modified, and there has been an increase in the number of workers to improve the quality of cleanliness.

Finally, to improve patient information, the facility printed simplified fliers to explain the various examinations received by patients, and multiple images explaining the exams in general were added to the walls of the department.

When talking about how the results of their study stack up against similar research conducted at Western institutions, Hamed said the results were expected.

"There are actual changes in the culture, education, and socioeconomic factors, and all these factors affect the patient's expectation [regarding] the level of the service and, subsequently, their satisfaction," he said.

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