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Hold a Patient Focus Group
- Decision-making authority
- Time to plan and hold focus group and review notes
- A place to hold focus group
- A facilitator and note-taker
- Money for refreshments (and incentive if you offer one)
- Money for a consultant, if hired
Set it up
- Choose the focus group's date, time and location. An evening meeting might work best. Consider using a public location, such as a room at the library, with a table large enough to accommodate patient participants, a facilitator and a note-taker.
- Serve light refreshments.
- A small gift certificate or other incentive may reduce no-shows.
- Plan to have about six patients participate; invite a few more to take no-shows into account.
- Participants should reflect your patient population. Choose patients who are familiar with your practice and likely to be honest and open about their experiences with it.
- Structure the focus group around some specific patient service issues. Prepare the facilitator's script, including questions or statements that you would like the patients to discuss.
- Assign a work group member to take notes of the discussion. Some focus groups are audiotaped as well.
Hold the focus group
- At the beginning, have each patient sign this focus group consent form (1-page Word document; About Downloading Files), or create your own form.
- The facilitator (could be you) should welcome participants, explain the focus group's purpose, note that participants' thoughts and ideas will be recorded for later consideration, ask participants to introduce themselves (first name only, for privacy reasons) and encourage participants to speak freely,
- Deal tactfully with anyone who tries to dominate the discussion, and keep the discussion focused on identifying and solving patient service problems.
- Additional members of the work group could attend as observers -- but keep the number small so patients are more likely to share their true feelings.
Use the results
- Analyze the notes for any patient service problems identified in the discussion.
- Your patient satisfaction survey could include questions about service problems identified in the focus group (see next component of this project).
- A focus group also may be useful after the patient satisfaction survey, to probe in depth regarding survey questions with low scores.
- If you have trouble getting enough patients to attend a focus group, try holding a "virtual" focus group via conference call.
What You Will Need
- Decision-making authority
- Time to plan and hold the focus group and review the notes
- A place to hold the meeting
- A facilitator and someone to take notes
- Money to pay for refreshments (and an incentive if you offer one)
- Money to pay for a consultant, if you hire one
Where to Go for Help
This Patient-Centered Medical Home section of the AAFP web site was supported in part by a grant from Merck & Co.