Hold a Patient Focus Group

Steps to Holding a Patient Focus Group

Note: If you are uncomfortable conducting a focus group yourself, search for a local consultant to facilitate at least the first one and prepare a report on the results. Have the consultant sign a HIPAA business associate agreement. The consultant may do many of the following tasks for you.

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 DOC), 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)
    • 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.
  • 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

Difficulty: Moderate

Outcome: Qualitative information on patient perceptions of your practice

Time to Complete: One to two months

See Also
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