Patient satisfaction surveys have become commonplace, but if they aren’t conducted properly, they can do more harm than good. Look for these three qualities in your next survey.
1. It asks the right questions. Practices have three general goals when interacting with patients: provide high-quality care, make that care accessible, and treat patients with courtesy and respect. Survey questions, then, should cover each of these areas: quality (e.g., “Are you satisfied with the medical care you received?”), access (e.g., “Is it easy to make an appointment?”), and interpersonal issues (e.g., “Are the physicians and staff caring and compassionate?”). In addition, the survey should ask about overall performance, such as “Overall, how satisfied are you with our practice?” and include an open-ended question, such as “What can we do to improve?” Download a sample survey here.
2. It includes enough patients. At a minimum, practices need 200 responses to keep the margin of error acceptable. That means a group of four physicians would need to randomly distribute approximately 670 surveys to yield 200 responses (assuming a response rate of 30 percent). If the survey looks at physician-specific data, a minimum of 50 responses per physician is needed, along with an equal number of responses per physician. Even then, practices should use extreme caution when drawing conclusions or comparing individual physicians based on a single survey.
3. It leads to positive action. Practices don't have to act on every suggestion patients provide in the survey, but they should investigate the key items that are causing dissatisfaction. The goal is to identify and improve broken processes, not to place blame. If survey results are positive, staff should at least get a pat on the back for their efforts. And if the practice builds survey results into physician compensation, it should use a carrot (bonus), not a stick (penalty).
Adapted from “Measuring Patient Satisfaction: How to Do It and Why to Bother.”
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