With more third party payers moving toward reimbursement based on clinical outcomes and patient satisfaction, practices are looking for ways to measure those indicators. If you have not conducted a patient satisfaction survey in your office within the last few years, get ahead of the information curve by doing one now. There are several survey methods from which to choose. Depending on how much time and money you want to invest, here are some of the options:
- Place a box, questionnaires and pens in the waiting area so that patients can complete written surveys while they are in the office.
- Hand surveys out to patients as they leave the office and include a stamped return envelope.
- Mail surveys to patients.
- Conduct a telephone survey.
- Put an online survey on your website and direct patients there with a postcard mailing, note on monthly billing statements, or in your practice e-newsletter.
- Use SurveyMonkey, an online service where the most basic surveys are free.
- Hire a firm that specializes in conducting surveys for medical practices.
Keep your survey short or patients won’t bother to respond. Ten to 15 questions should be enough to get a sense of how you’re doing in terms of keeping your customers satisfied. Some areas to consider asking about include access (ease in getting appointments), service (how helpful and respectful is the staff), quality (provider competence), communication (phone messages returned, test results conveyed) convenience (office hours and parking), facility (cleanliness and comfort of the office) and privacy (how patients perceive the way in which you handle their confidential information).
Write the survey carefully so that you’re not asking leading or biased questions. Use a consistent scoring method such as a 1-5 scale with 1 being “poor” and 5 being “excellent.” Depending on how you word your questions, you might also consider using a 4-point scale in which patients strongly agree, agree, disagree, or strongly disagree with statements such as “It’s easy to get an appointment to see my doctor” or “My phone calls are returned in a timely manner.” Include one open-ended question at the end of the survey such as, “What else would you like for us to know?” or “How can our office serve you better in the future?”
The response rate you achieve from your survey will depend on how you distribute it. Try to get at least 100 responses so that you’ll have statistically significant data. This might require mailing or handing out 400-500 surveys, making 200-300 phone calls, or leaving your survey box in the waiting area over a period of several weeks.
Once you have the survey results in hand, analyze it carefully and make action plans based on the findings. Keep in mind that perception is just as important as reality. If your office scores poorly in, for example, ease in scheduling appointments, but your front desk staff insists that everyone who calls the office is accommodated, don’t ignore the survey findings. Dig a little deeper to try to determine what might have generated the low score and then address the issue. If your practice scores exceptionally well in every area you survey on, celebrate your success, but don’t take this as permission to “coast” when it comes to providing quality care and service. There is always more you can do to continually improve patient satisfaction scores.