Conduct a Patient Satisfaction Survey

Steps to Conducting a Patient Satisfaction Survey

Consider these points

  • The survey questionnaire should elicit information to help you understand your patients' needs as they relate to your office processes and service level. While you could create the questionnaire yourself, experts recommend using a survey that has already been tested and validated.
  • Which delivery method should you use? Some pros and cons of each:
    • Online surveys minimize staff burden because no one has to key in survey responses. Online surveys also can be inexpensive; for example, you could use an online tool such as SurveyMonkey( However, you must give the URL to patients, and patients must take the initiative to get on the computer and complete the survey.
    • Printed surveys cost more, especially if mailed instead of handed out in the practice. They also require more time since someone must key in responses. However, this delivery may be best if many of your patients don't have computer access.
    • Telephone surveys are time-intensive: someone must call patients, go through the survey, and key in survey responses, but they allow patient opinions to be probed in-depth.
  • What sampling strategy would you prefer? You could survey periodically. For example, each quarter you could distribute the questionnaire to all patients seen in a given week. Or you could seek feedback continually, such as giving the questionnaire to every tenth patient in the office.
  • Distribute surveys in a random fashion, not just to patients who likely had positive experiences. Kudos are fun, but less-glowing feedback will help your practice improve.
  • You could go it alone: developing, conducting, and analyzing the survey with no outside assistance, but consider the workload implications. Since patients should be surveyed on an ongoing basis, try to minimize the amount of work your staff is required to do.

Consider outsourcing the work

  • A simple, inexpensive option is the patient satisfaction survey package( developed by the AAFP in partnership with Avatar International LLC. The basic package is $150 annually per physician. Staff's only task is to give the patient an access code for the online survey. Survey results are available in real-time, and practice scores may be compared with other practices nationally.
  • Additional options to consider are listed in this document(0 bytes) about companies that offer patient satisfaction survey services.
  • If you decide to get outside help, use these questions(1 page DOC) to gather information about the companies that interest you, or create your own questions. Use the responses to compare the companies.
  • Request family medicine references from the companies. Ask the references to provide feedback on this form(0 bytes), or create your own.
  • When you've narrowed it down to a few companies, discuss with the work group and with other physicians and providers in your practice. After you get their input, select a company.

Conduct the survey

Note: If you've outsourced the survey, the survey company will do most of this work.

  • Select the patient sample.
  • Deliver the questionnaire to the sample (or deliver the URL and access code for an online questionnaire). If you're handing out the material in the office, be sure to do it on busy days as well as slow days. The patient experience may be different when you're busier.
  • Key in survey responses (not necessary for an online survey).
  • Analyze survey results. What are your patients telling you? Identify problems in office processes and patient service; these are the areas to improve.

What you will need

  • Decision-making authority
  • Time for investigating and selecting a survey company, if needed
  • Time for conducting the survey and analyzing the results
  • Money to pay for survey expenses

Difficulty: Easy to moderate

Outcome: Quantitative data from a patient satisfaction survey

Time to Complete: May take six months or more