Secrets of Success: Conduct Patient Satisfaction Surveys? You really should!

Do you conduct patient satisfaction surveys? They can be a little scary, I know, hearing potential patient complaints, especially if they are left waiting in the reception area for longer than expected. Yet, that is exactly the reason WHY you should do them. If there is a customer service problem, you need to know about it, and you need to fix it. Remember, if they don’t tell you, they are very likely going to tell 10-12 other people. Negative chatter spreads fast, and it’s never pretty! 

Here’s the reality. The function of a patient satisfaction survey is to help keep a finger on the pulse of the practice and determine what it is that makes your practice stand above the competition…or not.  They are effective in providing key insights into your patients’ thoughts which is important because meeting their needs is an ongoing priority. They help define why patients keep coming back, why they suddenly leave. Additionally, they serve as a gauge to monitor what operational systems are working to the advantage of the practice and conversely what improvements need to be made.  

As far as the best type of survey… Some offices prefer issuing a short 3 question survey that patients can fill out at the discharge desk. Others, an online survey that they can complete at home. Personally, I’ve always liked a third option. The short, anonymous patient survey done on site. Yes, having the patient fill one out while they are there in your office effectively captures their real-time impressions based on their experience and the type of care they received. Anonymous surveys always tend to yield more honest evaluations. And like it or not, that’s what you want.

Putting it on your website is always good to accommpdate those patients who are willing to offer feedback at their convenience, but it should not be your only approach. Not many patients actually make a point of following through, even though they say they will. You will get a much higher rate of participation overall in person (they’re a captive audience…very few will refuse to fill one out) than you would with an internet version. 

My suggestion is keep it short but not too short (one page; one side), as I have found this to be most effective. Asking your patient to quickly circle three (3) very general questions and then hand it back to the person who asked them to fill it out is by far, the most simplified and uninformative version of patient feedback. However, it rarely pinpoints necessary change.  That said, for that intermittent and ongoing shot in the arm, “The Super Short (3 question) Survey” can still be available on the counter year round.

It is beneficial for your practice to initiate annual surveys for one full month out of the year, to get a realistic assessment. I like doing them in March…sort of a “Spring Cleaning” effort towards change. 

Questions asked should cover several critical areas e.g., appointment, facility, staff and doctor. You’ll also want to provide a closed receptacle (consider getting a big old-fashioned single slot mailbox complete with a flag and a lock) to place on the discharge counter. This allows them to return their survey (again, anonymously) before leaving the office. You’d be surprised at how many patients are anxious to “drop” their survey into the mailbox!

So, do conduct your survey! And, please don’t ignore your patient’s comments. Any complaint they may have is one worth addressing. You asked, now make it a point to follow through. 

I am willing to share our recommended SOS survey, “We Aim to Please” to those who are interested. Email Lynn@soshms.com for a copy, type We Aim to Please in the Subject line.


Ms. Homisak, President of SOS Healthcare & Management Solutions, has a Certificate in Human Resource Studies from Cornell University School of Industry and Labor Relations. She is the 2010 recipient of Podiatry Management’s Lifetime Achievement Award and recently inducted into the PM Hall of Fame. Lynn is also an Editorial Advisor for Podiatry Management Magazine and recognized nationwide as a speaker, writer and expert in staff and human resource management.

 

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