Guest Column | March 1, 2018

Survey Says … Healthcare Providers Should Focus On The Patient Experience

By Jim Higgins, Solutionreach


Not too long ago, patients did not have many choices when they needed to see a healthcare professional. There may not have been many options for covered practices close by, and patients tended to find a provider and stick with them forever. That’s not true anymore. Patients have easy access to all kinds of providers, right from their smart phone. If they aren’t happy with a particular practice, it takes little effort to find a new provider (or walk-in clinic or urgent care). And they are—patients across all generations are switching providers in record numbers. In fact, recent studies show that almost half of millennial and Generation X patients are likely to switch physicians in the next few years. And it’s not because they lack confidence in the competency of their provider. Rather, it’s because they were unhappy with the patient experience and the way they were treated when they were in the office.

Since it costs about five times more to attract a new patient than it does to keep an existing one, that’s a huge chunk of the patient base most practices can’t afford to lose. It’s vital to a thriving practice to continually gather feedback about the patient experience and suggestions for improvement. And the best way to get that feedback is to go straight to the source—ask the patients. With the right patient communication software, creating an effective survey doesn’t have to take much time, and it can greatly impact the patient experience and keep current patients returning to the practice.

Creating The Survey

One of the most important factors in creating an effective patient survey is to determine what information is needed. Most people will exit out of a survey if it takes them longer than five minutes to complete, so it’s important to keep the questions on point, and avoid asking questions that don’t provide relevant data. Creating surveys in patient communication software can provide a good starting point when it comes to writing questions. Usually the software will provide some default questions that can be customized to fit the practice. Using software also makes it easy to send the surveys digitally and view and analyze results.

Surveys can give practice staff an inside look at how the patients really feel. Once the survey has been created and sent to patients, practices should have a process in place to analyze the results, and evaluate how the practice can improve processes based on patient feedback. For example, if there is a trend in survey responses like frustration with long wait times then the practice staff know that they need to make changes to areas, such as scheduling and check-in.

Making Changes

Paying attention to survey responses can increase patient satisfaction in two ways. The first is by making changes that impact the patient experience. It can be easy for practice staff to get caught up in their own way of doing things, and not think about how those processes can have a negative effect on the patient experience. There is always room for improvement, and using surveys will help a practice find out what is important to their patients and make changes accordingly.

The second way surveys can increase patient satisfaction is by helping patients feel valued. If patients take the time to respond to the survey and give honest feedback, they can get frustrated if they feel like nothing ever changes. On the other hand, if patients can see the practice make an effort to incorporate feedback and make changes to improve their experience, they are more likely to feel like their healthcare provider cares about them and their opinions, and will be less likely to switch providers.

Accepting Positive Feedback

Survey feedback isn’t always negative. Oftentimes, when patients respond to surveys they will highlight staff members who were especially helpful, or made an extra effort to ensure they had a pleasant experience. When these staff members are called out, practices can recognize them for their hard work in staff meetings or through other inter-office communication methods. Focusing on the positive feedback from the patient surveys can have a huge impact on the staff morale around the office. If staff feel like they are being recognized, they are more likely to want to engage with patients and help make their experience in the office a pleasant one. Taking care of staff and making sure they are recognized for all they do can play a big role in ensuring patients return to the practice.

Keeping patients satisfied with their healthcare experience is important in any practice. Staying connected with patients through surveys can ensure the practice is on the same page as its patients, and can help them to see the areas they are excelling in and those that need improvement.