64% of Albertans satisfied with health services, finds survey

A new survey says many Albertans are satisfied with the health-care services they receive in the province, according to the Health Quality Council of Alberta.

Alberta health minister disappointed with the results

Health Quality Council of Alberta released its annual report on patient satisfaction. 3:58

A new survey says 64 per cent of Albertans are satisfied with the health-care services they receive in the province, according to the Health Quality Council of Alberta.

"In the almost 10-year history the HQCA has been conducting this biennial survey, we have seen a change from 52 per cent to 64 per cent in how Albertans rate their satisfaction with health-care services," said Dr. John Cowell, CEO of HQCA, in a release.

Access to health care was the most important factor influencing Albertans’ overall satisfaction with services received, according to the report.

Just over half of Albertans, or 51 per cent, rated overall access to health-care services as easy in 2012, which is relatively unchanged from 2010's 48 per cent but higher than 46 per cent in 2008 and all other previous years.

Quality of health-care services came in as the second most important factor —  which 77 per cent of Albertans who received services in the last year rated as good or excellent.

Survey participants in northern Alberta were less satisfied with health-care services overall, coming in at 56 per cent. (iStockphoto.com)

But not all factors saw improvements.

"Co-ordination of care ... is one of the top three most influential factors driving overall satisfaction, and yet we have not seen improvements in this area in any of the six surveys we have conducted since 2003," said Cowell. 

HQCA says the province is also spending a lot more on services, as health care spending per capita went up by 64 per cent from 2003 to 2011. The estimated cost in 2011 was $6,570 per person.

The numbers point to how satisfaction levels are not rising with increased dollars put into the system.

Health minister 'disappointed'

"It calls on us to have a serious discussion on the value for the dollars on health care that we are spending on health care today, and more importantly when we're making decisions the extent to which we're truly taking into account the patient's experience," said Alberta's Health Minister Fred Horne.   

"I think it's primarily going to be up to Alberta Health Services to take a serious look at this," he said.   

"It is true that a few years ago we had a change in the structure of the health-care system, we went to one region for the province, but one of the reasons that we did that was we wanted to really start to see a significant improvement in patient satisfaction throughout the system and here we are three years later, since Alberta Health Services was created, and we're not seeing that result yet. So, I'm disappointed with the results."  

Horne also talked about how concerned he was about the 20 per cent satisfaction rate with patients who filed complaints.  

"A 20 per cent satisfaction rate from people who do take the trouble to raise a concern or to put a complaint in writing is not acceptable.... If I was going to look at one thing to tackle, I think I'd start there."

Another key finding was survey participants in northern Alberta were less satisfied with health-care services overall, coming in at 56 per cent.

The survey also found that 28 per cent of Albertans have never had a flu shot.

"We consider this to be incredibly important and valuable information for those that are making the big decisions about the way in which our system is designed and delivered," said Cowell.

The survey sampled 4,803 Albertans who were 18 years of age and older, and had a landline telephone.