Quality of the ophthalmological service to outpatients of the public and private healthcare systems
ABSTRACT Purpose: To compare perceptions of the quality of ophthalmological services offered to outpatients from the public healthcare system to those from the private healthcare system, and to determine which measures are seen as necessary and a priority for improving the quality of care. Methods: This was a prospective observational study on 200 patients, 101 and 99 of whom were from the public and private healthcare systems, respectively. All patients underwent an ophthalmological examination at an ophthalmology hospital in Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais, Brazil. Personal interviews were conducted using two structured questionnaires adapted from the modified SERVQUAL scale. Results: Overall, patients from the private healthcare system were significantly more dissatisfied than those from the public healthcare system. In both systems, reliability was considered to be the most important determinant of quality, and it presented the highest level of dissatisfaction. Satisfaction with the public healthcare system was significantly greater than that with the private healthcare system in terms of the tangibles, reliability, responsiveness, and assurance determinants of the SERVQUAL scale. Conclusions: Institutions must plan, execute, evaluate, and monitor measures that seek to improve the overall patient satisfaction with the quality of services provided, particularly in the private healthcare system, and special attention must be paid to reliability in both healthcare systems. The identification and monitoring of the quality of healthcare services through the periodic use of the SERVQUAL scale may provide healthcare managers with information so that they can identify, plan, and monitor necessary and priority measures. This could be a key strategy for improving the quality of outpatient health services in the public and private systems.