Whether you’re looking to improve your practice, attract more patients or provide better service, a comprehensive patient survey can do wonders. By asking your patients to review and provide suggestions, you’ll be able to compile valuable data while addressing the desires of your clientele.
A study by the Oman Medical Journal found that “patients’ evaluation of care is a realistic tool to provide the opportunity for improvement, enhance strategic decision making, reduce cost, meet patients’ expectations, frame strategies for effective management, monitor healthcare performance of health plans and provide benchmarking across the healthcare institutions.”
Designing a useful survey isn’t difficult, and the feedback you receive has the potential to revolutionize your practice. Here’s how to get started.
Decide on a Goal
In order to create an effective survey, start by identifying the current problems or obstacles your practice faces.
If you already have existing hiccups that you and your team can acknowledge, such as long waits, slow response times to patient inquiries, or hastily managed appointments, now is the time to consult with your team to pinpoint problems and brainstorm ways to improve the experience for you, your staff, and your patients.
An effective survey is one that leads to solutions. In this regard, ensure your initial questions aren’t simply hypotheticals, but ones that will lead to actual solutions. “Did you like your experience?” or “How did we do?” are open-ended questions with answers that won’t help you change course. Pose targeted questions that can lead to immediate actions, such as “Are you satisfied with the amount of time spent with a doctor?”
If patients are reporting unusually long wait times to see a doctor or poor support from your staff, then you can address these issues immediately. On the other hand, if you simply ask your patients whether they were satisfied with their visit, it will be harder to act on their feedback.
With this in mind, you now need to decide whether to poll your patients on a single experience or for general experiences. A single, episode-specific survey is designed to provide feedback following a visit to your practice. This can be useful for polling new patients as well as gaining feedback for new treatments, a new doctor, or a problem you think needs immediate attention. On the other hand, a survey based on general experiences is designed to provide a holistic response to your practice and can be used to make gradual improvements over a longer stretch of time.
Create a survey
After selecting your goals it’s time to craft a survey.
Include questions that focus on common experiences
Your episode-specific questions are unique to your practice and predicament, but every survey should include questions that touch on common experiences shared by every patient. Factors such as staff interactions, communication, attentiveness and access to information or care can be addressed by any patient, new or old. These questions act as a framework for the rest of your survey and will give you valuable data, even if your specific questions fail to incite a response.
Avoid yes or no questions
Instead, ask questions that spur an emotional response or ones that naturally involve a longer answer. A good question to include is whether your patient would recommend your practice to a friend or family member. This can reveal a better understanding of their satisfaction. “Would you recommend our practice to family and friends?” says Tierra Healthcare Concepts founder Mark Conklin. “This,” says Conklin, “is a great way to measure patient satisfaction.”
Provide a comments section at the end
Although your survey should remain focused, it never hurts to give patients some room to remark on experiences that may not fit in the framework of your survey. There might be problems you’re not aware of—if so, a comments section allows each patient to help you connect the dots that would have otherwise gone unnoticed.
Keep it simple, keep it short
Everyone’s time is important, and some people are easily put off by long, complicated surveys. MedPro Group suggests “that the survey does not need to be, and probably should not be, overly complex. A concise, logical, and easy-to-understand survey will likely encourage more participation and higher-quality information.”
Chances are you’ve taken a survey but hesitated at first because you saw the waste of a potential hour. Be ready to state how long your survey will take, and don’t be afraid to include the exact amount of questions. Start with five questions and avoid going beyond ten—lest your request for feedback turns into a burden.
Select a Method to Distribute your Survey
How you choose to collect patient feedback is up to you. Here are some of the most popular methods to distribute your survey.
Internet surveys are fast, efficient, and can easily be distributed via email reminders. Plus, there are many online survey creators available that not only send and receive surveys for you but track the results automatically. Although you often have to pay for these services, the amount of time you’ll save by having the results readily organized and available quickly pays for itself.
Phone surveys are popular in that they connect your patient with a real staff member and provide additional avenues of communicating satisfaction. By speaking to a staff member, your patient may feel like their opinion is valued more than a faceless internet survey. It’s great if you don’t have a plethora of patients to contact, but if you do, you can always hire a research firm to make the calls for you.
In-office surveys can be given out upon arrival or as a patient leaves and gives you immediate feedback. Like a phone survey, it also provides an opportunity for your patient to address concerns, problems or satisfaction that may not have made it on a traditional survey. Provide a collection box for completed surveys and have your staff analyze the data.
Analyze Feedback and Implement Changes
Whether you polled your patients online or over the phone, once you’ve collected enough data it’s time to take action. Discuss the most common issues with your staff and work towards finding solutions that you can implement. If certain problems stem from a staff member, then be sure to address them privately.
Having met with your staff and brainstormed solutions, it’s time to take your list of improvements and begin applying them to your practice. Tackle each goal individually and allow time for the results to be noticed by your patients. Then prepare another survey and discover whether your efforts were effective.
If they were, you can rest easy knowing you’ve made significant alterations to your practice and patient satisfaction. If not, hit the drawing board again, narrow your focus and poll your patients for additional information. Your improvements are within reach.