Patient Experience Surveys

surveyDo you know how patients feel about your practice? Sure, you get holiday cards in the mail and patients in the exam room who tell you how much they love their doctor. That’s all fine and good. I’m sure you even hear about a few complaints here and there. But overall, do you know how your patients feel about the experience of being a part of your practice?

The concepts of Patient-Centered Medical Home encourages practices to do regular surveys of patients to address this very topic. In fact, the National Commission on Quality Assurance (NCQA) includes patient experience surveys in one of its must-pass elements for its PPC-PCMH recognition process.

There’s really no better way to find out what your patients think of your practice than to ask. Here are some ideas for getting started:

Designing the Survey:

  • Begin the survey with an explanatory paragraph that states why the practice is conducting this survey: to improve service, care and satisfaction.
  • Assure respondents that responses are confidential.
  • Keep your survey brief. You’d be better to conduct several surveys on different topics throughout the year, than one long survey covering several topics.
  • Follow the KISS principle and keep your surveys simple and at an elementary reading level.
  • Include options for the patient to indicate which provider they saw so you can have results for the overall practice and for individual providers as well.
  • Feel free to make the majority of the questions on a 5 or 7-point Likert scale. Just be sure to include one or two open-ended questions such as, “Would you recommend this practice to a friend or family member?”
  • If you want to be able to use this survey for documentation of the NCQA PPC-PCMH, be sure your survey covers questions about these four areas:
    • Access to care
    • Quality of care
    • Communication with the provider and practice staff
    • Satisfaction with their provider relationship

Implementing the Survey

  • Ask yourself how many surveys are necessary to achieve optimal feedback. We see a lot of practices who aim for around 50 responses per provider.
  • Consider how you want to implement the survey. We find the most effective way is a written survey. Yes, this means that someone will have to enter the data, but it seems to work best for a broad spectrum of patients. Some practices ask patients to fill them out immediately after check-out, others will hand the survey along with a self-addressed, stamped envelope for the patient to mail in later.
  • Who will enter results? This seems like a simple question, but one that needs to be thought through. First of all you need to make sure you select someone who has time to enter the results, has the skill level to do so, and who can be trusted. Finding someone who is neutral to the results is highly recommended.
  • Repeat your Patient Experience survey throughout the year in order to expand its usefulness.

Analyzing Results

  • Look for patterns in the responses to the survey. Remember as the number of responses increases the reliability of the feedback also increases.
  • Celebrate the successes!
  • Share results with the entire practice and discuss with your practice team what you can do to resolve any problematic patterns or complaints.
  • Don’t forget to share results with your patients too! Let them know that you’re taking their advice and making improvements! You can create a report to communicate overall results, what the practice is doing right, and what is being done to resolve areas concern. How can you deliver such a report to your patients? Consider a newsletter, a waiting room handout, or your practice website.

Getting feedback from customers (your patients) is an important part of the success of any business. But beyond being smart business, it’s also an important step to ensuring high quality care provided in a safe and caring environment.

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