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
Outcome: Qualitative information on patient perceptions of your practice
Time to Complete: One to two months