Ways to Measure Patient Satisfaction with Patient Satisfaction Surveys Templates
In today’s fiercely competitive healthcare market, your ability to know what patients think of the care they receive not only helps your practice improve the quality of the encounter but it can also be a distinct competitive advantage. In essence, happy patients are more likely to be loyal patients and to share their favorable experiences with you through word of mouth and online reviews. But measuring patient experience should involve more than just reading negative reviews online after they happen.
That’s why it’s important to know what a patient satisfaction survey is, what it measures, and how you can utilize the feedback to improve the care experience to grow your business.
How Do You Measure Patient Satisfaction?
Most providers use surveys to measure key patient satisfaction indicators, like the patients’ impressions of your practice’s responsiveness and friendliness, how well providers and staff communicate, practitioner skill, and aspects of the practice environment. Typically subjective in nature, satisfaction surveys gauge patients’ expectations—their thoughts, feelings, and opinions— about the care journey based on their real-world experience.
What Is a Patient Satisfaction Survey?
Patient satisfaction surveys are tools to capture patients’ self-reported assessments of the various touch points during their care experience. Patient care surveys range from standardized questionnaires to those you create on your own. They evaluate how content your patients are with their experience, including before, during, and after the actual appointment.
For example, one popular option is the market research metric Net Promoter Score (NPS), which asks patients how likely they are to recommend the practice to others on a scale of 1 to 10.
Why Measure Patient Satisfaction?
The sole objective in asking patients to complete a satisfaction survey is to provide you with valuable feedback to improve your practice and make the care journey more pleasant. The good news is there’s no shortage of patient willingness to participate in a short survey. Nearly 90 percent of patients say they’d likely take a questionnaire from a healthcare provider.
Running a healthcare practice is no small feat. The to-do list is seemingly endless, and adding any task to the stack should be done carefully. So, why are patient satisfaction surveys worth doing? Let’s explore.
1. Surveys Can Increase Patient Satisfaction
This first point might seem surprising, but it stands to reason. Asking patients to tell you about their experience with your practice indicates to the patient that you care about them. It shows that you’re listening to them. That their opinion matters. What’s more, the patients who go to the trouble of answering your questions will feel more invested in your practice—a feeling that they have contributed usefully to your work. Before you make a single change based on survey results, the act of surveying your patients will have improved your patient relationships.
2. Surveys Can Improve Your Practice
Done properly, a survey will reveal shortcomings in your current ways of doing business. You might discover care gaps, points of friction that make it harder for patients to set or keep appointments, or other problems with your patient experience. Some problems might call for more complex solutions, but you’ll be amazed by the minor tweaks to your practice you’ll discover that can yield results and help grow your practice.
3. Surveys Can Improve Staff Performance
This benefit occurs in two ways: first, the mere fact of patient surveys lets staff know that their performance is being measured. This naturally improves performance, since no team member wants negative feedback. Second, survey results can start productive and collaborative conversations with your staff, as you work together to use feedback to inspire better practices at every stage of the patient experience.
4. Surveys Can Grow Your Practice
Put simply, all the above works together to attract and retain more patients, growing your practice and increasing your bottom line. For example, one healthcare practice that used a patient engagement solution to automate their survey distribution after an appointment was able to send out nearly 18,000 surveys to patients.
The advantages of getting regular feedback from your patients are myriad and include:
- Enhancing strategic decision-making
- Reducing costs and increasing revenue
- Better meeting patients’ expectations
- Identifying areas for more effective management
- Knowing how your care experience stacks up against the competition
While some studies have shown a correlation between higher survey scores and better patient outcomes, others have found that healthcare organizations who receive higher marks are also more profitable.
In the pandemic era, patients’ expectations about their care experience have changed. They view the process more through the lens of a consumer, with ease, convenience, and speed of the journey now being as important as the care received. The more you can do to meet those expectations and make the experience a smooth and effortless one, the greater your ability to get the survey scores that boost your organization’s online reputation, both through word of mouth and in online patient reviews.
Finally, conducting surveys conveys to your patients that you’re concerned about the experience they have, and you’re committed to continually raising the bar of that care. This helps you develop closer relationships with your patients in a way that builds loyalty to your practice.
How Can I Create an Effective Survey?
Instead of asking just a few random patient satisfaction survey questions, best practices require that you create a well thought out process for determining which questions to use and how to respond to patients’ feedback. Surveys are typically geared toward measuring patient satisfaction in the following areas:
- Quality of care
- Access to care and communication
- Patient interaction/relationships with clinicians and staff
When designing a survey, it’s also recommended that you adhere to three principles of effective survey questions—brevity, clarity, and consistency. The rule of thumb is that it should take less than five minutes to complete. The best surveys are simple to understand so make sure you should avoid questions that are biased, vague, or are two-part in nature.
You’ll also want to be sure to use consistent rating scales that are easy for the patient to follow and understand. Effective options include 10- or five-point scales ranging from “strongly agree” to “strongly disagree,” or four-point scales that require the patient to take a sided response.
Other helpful guidelines for creating patient satisfaction questionnaires that get the results you want include:
- Group questions on similar topics together.
- Create separate surveys for different purposes: post-care, new services, etc.
- Ask for basic demographic information (gender, age range, new or existing patient).
- Update your survey on an annual basis.
- Conduct a trial send of your survey before sending it to patients.
- Include an open-ended question for any final comments or suggestions.
What’s the Best Way to Administer a Survey?
While in the past it was perfectly acceptable to mail out or conduct phone surveys, it’s neither feasible nor economical due to heavy workloads on today’s front office staff. It’s also much less effective. One study showed that sending surveys electronically doubled patients’ response rate.
Patients of all ages want the simplicity and ease of being able to receive an electronic survey sent via text or email to complete at a time of their choosing. Forty-three percent of patients say they would be more likely to take a survey if they could do it at their own convenience. More than one-third of patients said taking a survey from their smartphone or mobile device would make them more willing to participate.
A modern patient relationship management (PRM) platform allows you to automatically send patients personalized surveys after their appointment. Experts agree that the ideal time to send a survey is within 24 to 48 hours of a service experience. This ensures that patients will remember their visit and be more likely to leave a response.
How Can I Analyze the Results?
As we’ve established, the bulk of your survey should focus on gathering numerical measurements of your practice’s care, accessibility, and service. Combining the results of all survey responses will give you an average score in each area, which you can then strive to improve. For example, if you score an average of 3.2 out of 5 on accessibility, you can make improvements in that area, and then issue your survey again six months later, to see if you can bring that average closer to 4 or even 5. This is the feedback loop that can lead to clear and measurable improvements to your practice.
You can use the data from your survey to achieve the following:
- Help you identify potential problem areas.
- Plan improvement projects.
- Set quarterly or annual goals to elevate patient satisfaction and ensure maximum productivity and profitability.
- Recognize those in your organization responsible for helping you meet survey data improvement goals and objectives.
- Benchmark your success by comparing survey results quarterly, annually, etc.
The following are sample questions you may want to consider using for your own patient satisfaction survey:
- How satisfied are you with the level of care you received from our practitioners and staff?
- How attentive, caring, and understanding do you feel our physicians and staff are?
- How was the wait time?
- How soon are you able to be seen when you contact us to schedule an appointment?
- What is your preferred way to request an appointment? (i.e., phone call, text, email, patient portal, etc.)
- How easy was it to schedule an appointment?
- How well do you feel the doctor listens to your health concerns?
- How thorough do you feel his/her explanations and instructions for care are?
- How well do you feel the doctor takes time to answer your questions?
- How satisfied are you with the amount of time the doctor spends with you?
- How satisfied are you with our level of patient communication? (i.e., appointment reminder messages, timely returned calls, practice newsletters)
- Overall, how would you rate your most recent appointment experience with us?
What do you like best about our hospital or practice?
What are we doing especially well?
What can we do to improve?
Patient satisfaction surveys are the most reliable and valuable tools to measure patient satisfaction to help you upgrade the care experience that your practice or organization offers in ways that engender loyalty and bolster efforts to attract new patients.
Remember these key takeaways:
- Keep it short.
- Send it within 24 to 48 hours after an appointment.
- Personalize the invitation with the patient’s name.
- Automate it so that no patient gets missed.
- Send them electronically to achieve higher completion rates.
For more ideas on patient retention and to attract more new patients to grow your practice, check out the guide, "Online Reputation Management: Why's It's Essential for Your Practice."