Using Dialogues and Online Tools to Gauge Patient Satisfaction

January 11, 2019

Get the most out of patient input by offering feedback options via several methods. Every medical practice wants to know how to serve their patients better, and many use the patient satisfaction survey to see how they’re doing. Though the pencil-and-paper (or digital) patient satisfaction survey is the tried-and-true method, it should only be one way in which you gauge patient satisfaction.

My experience with standard patient surveys is that practices will often get the two ends of the continuum. You will have patients who love the practice, and you will also have those who don’t. With responses at these two extremes,it is often difficult to identify all areas of opportunity that can be corrected. The solution I suggest for you is, in addition to offering patient surveys, to try these other methods of measuring what patients think the practice is doing well, and what it can improve on.

Option 1: Talk to Patients in the Office

An effective way to get immediate feedback from patients is talking to them while they’re in the office for their appointments. Thispermits real-time data that helps a manager or supervisor make changes to communication or workflow to improve patient satisfaction.

  • Try this: The practice manager or front-office lead could head into the reception area two to four times a day, approach a patient and ask about their visit. If you try this informal, face-to-face patient surveying, I recommend you keep it simple. Follow a standard “three-to-five-question list.”
  • Questions you might ask the patient include:
    • Were you able to receive an appointment within the time frame you sought?
    • What was the courtesy and helpfulness of the front office staff?
    • How long have you been waiting?
    • What is the one thing we could do to make your experience with us better?
  • Using mixed methods – surveys, conversations, etc. – appears to work best to obtain the reports of patient experience needed to inform the practice of opportunities for improvement.

Option 2: Talk to Front Desk/Front Office Staff

Another invaluable source of patient satisfaction information is your front office staff. They’re the ones on the front lines, hearing patient complaints and compliments firsthand. Getting front-office feedback can be done informally, in casual conversations. If you would like the process to be a little more structured, you might hold a monthly meeting in which you meet with front office staff and discuss how patients are responding to the practice. You might also create a forum for complaints and compliments that staff has heard patients make.

Consider this: It might be a little old-fashioned, but a “Suggestion Box” might be the best way that you can get staff to report patient feedback they’ve overheard in the office. Put out a locked box with a slot for paper, and a small pad. Then, encourage staff to write down the good, the bad, and the ugly they’ve heard from patients.

The benefit ofgetting this type of staff input is that they can write something down atthe momentwhen it is fresh in their memory. Also, the “Suggestion Box” would protect staff anonymity.

Option 3: Maintain a Social Media Presence

This might not be for every medical practice, but you might consider maintaining a social media presence, such as a Facebook page, and encourage patient feedback there. If you take this route, however, you need to be careful fora myriad of reasons.

Social media can be a goodchannel for staying connected with patients, but it’s importantthat someone monitor the practice’s social media presence if you’re encouraging patients to provide feedback. You don’t want a patient to make a comment or complaint that goes unanswered. The social media option also requires staff that is well-trained in the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) as it applies to social media.

If the practice opts for a social media presence, you need to remind patients that social media is not the place to post any protected health information (PHI). If a patient has a specific health issue to discuss, encourage them to call the practice.

Option 4: Conduct a Patient Focus Group

Another arrow in the quiver of patient satisfaction measures is the patient focus group.

With this approach, a group of patients meets with the medical director and practice manager. In the meeting, patients are encouraged to share their insights regarding the patient experience, what is working, and what needs to be addressed.

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