Making sure your patients are satisfied with their care is an essential part of running an effective healthcare practice. Satisfied patients are more willing to work with your practioners, leading to better health outcomes. They’re also more motivated to leave good online reviews of your practice, enhancing your reputation in the community.
However, “patient satisfaction” is a difficult thing to define since satisfaction is a subjective feeling influenced by different aspects of a patient’s experience. Although healthcare providers agree measuring patient satisfaction helps improve healthcare quality, your practice still needs adequate measuring devices to gain actionable insights.
Thus, patient satisfaction surveys offer a useful way to translate the subjective impressions patients have of a practice into data for healthcare providers to refine their systems. In fact, a 2019 poll conducted by the Medical Group Management Association revealed out of 1121 healthcare leaders, 88% reviewed patient satisfaction survey results.
To make sure your patient satisfaction surveys elicit useful responses that lead to positive changes in your medical care, let’s take a closer look at how satisfaction surveys should be structured and offered.
What are patient satisfaction surveys?
Patient satisfaction surveys enable patients to offer their assessment of different areas of their medical care experience. Such areas might include:
- Accessibility of finding your practice (both online and in-person)
- Ease of scheduling an appointment
- Responsiveness of the staff
- Communication with the patient
- Technical skills of the doctors, nurses, and staff
- Cleanliness and noise level of your practice
Given the range of patient experiences satisfaction surveys assess, it’s important to determine early which aspects of patient satisfaction to measure and develop valid questions for translating subjective impressions into meaningful and quantifiable data.
Some healthcare practices use third-party providers to help develop, administer, and interpret patient satisfaction surveys. Hospitals use the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) survey (also known as the CAHPS Hospital Survey), a national, standardized, publicly reported survey of patients’ assessment of their hospital care.
However, many healthcare providers also combine required HCAHPS questions with their own assessment questions to gain a more in-depth perspective on their patients’ experiences.
Building your patient satisfaction surveys
How your survey questions are structured and phrased affects the responses you receive from your patients. Keep the following best practices in mind:
Limit the number of questions on your surveys
Patients don’t have the time or interest to answer dozens of questions. Try to keep each survey under 10 questions.
Offer a rating system for most of your questions
Allowing patients to rate their experiences on a satisfaction scale (for instance, “rate the ease of scheduling an appointment on a scale of 1 to 10”) enables you to collect quantitative data you can analyze to assess patient impressions of your services.
Be sure to use consistent scales on all of your surveys. You don’t want to use 10-point scales on some surveys and five-point scales on others since you won’t be able to compare the results.
Include open-ended questions
While open-ended questions should be kept to a minimum, such questions provide patients with a way to provide more in-depth responses about their experiences.
For instance, an answer to the question, “What could we do to improve our explanation of your treatment plan?” might elicit a detailed response about your staff’s overuse of confusing medical terms. This could lead to policy changes on the language used by your staff, improving communication between patients and providers.
Focus on the patient’s experience in your questions
Patient satisfaction surveys help you see your practice from your patient’s perspective. Look at the different touchpoints of their entire experience, from making an appointment to visiting your healthcare practice to receiving follow-up communication, and develop your questions around those areas.
Avoid asking questions about aspects of care you cannot change
Satisfaction surveys are meant to help make positive changes to your practice. Learning your patients are dissatisfied with aspects of your care you can’t alter is an ineffective use of your resources.
Sample questions to include in a patient satisfaction survey
To help you develop your own surveys, here are some of the top questions to ask on patient satisfaction surveys. Keep in mind all of the following questions can be answered on a rating scale or offered as open-ended questions.
How quickly were you able to schedule an appointment?
Ease of appointment scheduling is a big factor in assessing patient satisfaction. Consider also asking questions about how easily patients could use your website to schedule an appointment or how responsive your staff or automated system was if patients made appointments over the phone.
How long did you need to wait to be seen by our healthcare providers?
Being stuck in a waiting room for extended periods of time leads to dissatisfied patients. Learning how much time your patients spend waiting (beyond their appointment times) helps identify issues with staff and scheduling.
What is your impression of the cleanliness and appearance of our facility?
The HCAHPS includes a section where patients evaluate a practice’s cleanliness. You may also want to offer additional questions concerning noise levels, especially if your patients need to stay at your facility for extended periods of time.
Overall, how satisfied were you with your care?
Overall satisfaction should be assessed on all patient satisfaction surveys. Even if patients were satisfied with aspects of their experience, like facility cleanliness, their opinion of their overall care determines whether or not they want to come back to your practice.
Getting patients to leave positive online reviews of your facility helps expand your patient population. Knowing patients will encourage others to come to your practice reveals your staff is following best practices and providing quality care.
Administering and assessing a patient satisfaction survey
Patient satisfaction surveys can be administered in many different ways, including:
- Phone surveys
- Written email surveys
- Focus groups
- Personal interviews
To make the process of collecting patient feedback easier, invest in a HIPAA-compliant healthcare customer relationship management (CRM) system like LeadSquared. CRMs enable you to send feedback forms and surveys via emails, texts, and other notifications, expanding your reach.
A healthcare CRM also helps analyze patient satisfaction surveys by automatically calculating feedback scores and turning them into actionable reports. Automation is much more efficient and accurate than manually analyzing surveys and helps quickly identify issues with patient satisfaction.
Once you determine the changes you need to make in your system, CRMs help implement them. For instance, you can insert lead capture forms on your website and connect them with your healthcare CRM to make it easier for patients to book appointments online. Likewise, connecting toll-free contact numbers to the call distribution mechanism in your CRM redirects calls to free agents, reducing issues with missed calls.
Patient satisfaction surveys help assess the quality of care provided by your healthcare practice. Knowing patients are satisfied with their care is particularly important in today’s digital age since patients share their opinions in online reviews, encouraging or discouraging more patients from using your practice.
When developing your satisfaction surveys, be sure to focus on the needs of your patients. Ask questions dealing with the patient experience and offer rating scales and open-ended questions enabling them to give insightful responses on the area of care.
Invest in a healthcare CRM to reach out to a wide range of patients through emails, texts, and phone calls. An effective CRM also lets you implement positive changes to your healthcare system quickly, ensuring your surveys lead to greater patient satisfaction and better patient-provider relations.