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Ask Dr. Hallberg: How important is patient satisfaction?

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Dr. Jon Hallberg
Dr. Jon Hallberg is assistant professor in family medicine at the University of Minnesota, and medical director at Mill City Clinic. He is a regular medical analyst on MPR's All Things Considered.
Photo courtesy Tom Bloom

Patient or customer satisfaction is becoming increasingly important at hospital and clinics.

Dr. Jon Hallberg says there are important reasons to worry about how happy patients are with their care.

"We all want to do the right thing and make patients happy — the idea being if they're satisfied and they like us that they'll probably take better care of themselves or are more likely to follow through with our recommendations," Hallberg said.

But this also must be balanced with making informed expert decisions, despite what patients might want.

"We have to come to the realization that there are times to be a good physician we are simply going to have to say no in certain circumstances — whether it's an antibiotic request, or a request for an MRI or a referral someplace that just isn't necessary — we need to say no," said Hallberg. 

"It has nothing to do with being a gatekeeper — I think that people worry about that, that we're trying to prevent them from getting the care that they need. And that's not it at all. But there are times when I think frankly for patient's safety, the safety of others, and for public health purposes, we need to say no sometimes."