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Customer surveys in health care

Today’s health care organizations face greater competition than ever before, and the key to recruiting new customers while retaining existing ones depends essentially upon patient attitudes and opinions about the quality of care they receive and the environment in which they receive it in.In order for institutions to succeed, patients have to feel that their health care providers care and listen. Conducting patient surveys—both online and in-person—can offer an ideal solution that meets the needs of both the patient and the health care organization. Surveys can help organizations:

  • Gain insight into customer attitudes from patients or family members responsible for their care, rate the services you provide in order to pinpoint areas for improvement or changes in patient communication.
  • Provide insight into attitudes about patient care, doctor empathy, and the amount and quality of time and attention patients receive.
  • Help patients feel involved in their own care and included in the process of important decision making issues.

When exploring surveys, options for delivery abound. Written surveys can be filled out and submitted on-site or mailed; surveys can also be distributed online and even through electronic kiosks—all viable solutions to garnering patient feedback.

What’s more, many hospitals and clinics contract with survey specialists or use software, such as SurveyTracker™ or OpinionMeter™, that develop questions, interpret and report on the responses. This often saves time and in many cases money on behalf of the health care organization.

No matter which route your health care organization selects, we have a few tips for getting the most out of your customer surveys…

Always define an objective—what information are you hoping to gain and how will it be used?
Each question asked of your patients must pertain to this objective. Outline what you would like to know: Is it quality of care, is it compassion from your staff, is it the modernity of your office?

Clearly define the purpose of your survey
. Include this at the beginning of the survey to help patients understand why they are being encouraged to participate, what the information will be used for and how long it is estimated that survey completion will take.

Always test surveys on a small sample before distributing widely.
This will mitigate the errors that may have been missed, as well as draw attention to oddly worded questions, a need for an alternate multiple choice response, and more. Entice initial users to participate in testing with small gifts like a Convertible Duffel Cooler, a garden set or gift certificate to the hospital’s cafeteria or gift shop.

Make it easy for patients to participate.
Whether distributing paper surveys at the end of each clinic visit or hospital stay, mailing paper surveys to a current patient database, e-mailing electronic surveys, incorporating pop-up surveys on your website or utilizing strategically placed kiosks in high-traffic areas, surveys should be easy to find and easy to complete. After all, if no one can find your survey or they don’t know it exists, how can you expect anyone to fill it out? Create signage with banners to indicate survey stations, hand out free pens or other swag items like tote bags to encourage survey completion.

Promote the survey.
Inform staff of surveys and create tips for helping them to communicate these surveys to patients and their families. Remind administrators, doctors, nurses and other hospital staff of how and when surveys should be completed by creating handouts with a takeaway, like a pocket light or water bottle, that is sure to jog their memory each time they look at it.

Share your findings.
Often times, the biggest pitfall many organizations encounter with satisfaction surveys is that once they obtain the completed surveys, they don’t do anything with them. Coordinate a team of internal staff members to assist in the interpretation and reporting of survey data and develop a plan for communicating survey findings to staff and patients alike. And, of course, use the data to change your organization for the better.

Surveys are a great way to garner the information that will help your health care organization improve the services and the manner in which they are provided to patients and their family members alike, ultimately improving the health care experience and the marketability of your organization for years to come.

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