Methodology: Empirical research is used to determine patientsâ€™ perceptions and expectations of service quality in NHS hospitals located in North Greece. In this study SERVQUAL instrument was used to measure the service quality. The SERVQUAL questionnaire included an expectationsâ€™ and a perceptionsâ€™ section; each consisting of 26 statements. In addition; the questionnaire contained i) an extra section relating to demographics (e.g. age; gender; education) and ii) an overall question on the impression of quality of service provided. Due to the recognized instability of the dimensionality of SERVQUAL; it was considered necessary to test this instrument for its usefulness in the Greek hospital environment. Questionnaires were distributed and explained to the patients in the hospital wards on the day they were discharged from the hospital. One hundred and thirty seven (137) satisfactorily completed questionnaires were collected.
Findings: The analysis revealed that patients perceived receiving a rather satisfactory level of health care quality across all SERVQUAL dimensions. However; the results of this study showed that a gap exists between the rating which patients assign to expectations and to perception statements. In fact; expectations exceed perceptions of the provided service quality; suggesting that there is room for quality improvement initiatives. Finally; despite the criticism of the SERVQUAL instrument; in the present study it proved to be a useful tool (in terms of its validity and reliability) for measuring quality in the health care sector. Additionally; SERVQUAL can be considered as a flexible tool since it allows modification to incorporate the idiosyncrasies of specific industry or/and national context.
Originality/value of paper: This paper sheds light on a poorly researched field in the Greek context. The results clearly establish the areas where quality improvements are more demanding. Further; it provides directions for hospital managers and policymakers to develop strategies which will meet patientsâ€™ expectations of service quality; restore patients trust in public hospitals and increase thus their competitiveness. Finally; it gives support to the view that; although difficult; service quality in the health sector can be measured and consequently be monitored systematically in order to narrow previously identified gaps and take corrective actions when necessary.
Keywords: SERVQUAL; Public Hospitals; Greece; Research.