Patient surveys and their impact on healthcare improvement
Table of Contents
The first line of action in patient care is diagnosis and treatment but healthcare goes far beyond the provision of these basic services. The healthcare industry is attentive to the clinical and non-clinical needs of the patients and focuses on the implementation of quality improvement initiatives. To ascertain the patient’s feelings about the services provided by the healthcare industry, their feedback must be obtained in a computable form. This is exactly where patient surveys shine bright. Patient surveys are the key tools in identifying patient care gaps, measuring the quality of care, and using the provided information to improve healthcare quality.
The concept of patient satisfaction
The healthcare industry has become competitive over the years with more and more service providers coming into the picture. In order to maintain the quality of care, it is necessary to measure patient satisfaction through patient surveys from time to time.
The concept of patient satisfaction was created in 1985 by Notre Dame professors Irwin Press, Ph.D., a medical anthropologist, and Rod Ganey, Ph.D., a sociologist, and statistician; they introduced patient surveys in hospital administration.
Patient satisfaction revolves around the provision of helpful treatment and maintenance of patients’ dignity and contentment through good behavior. It helps in identifying the areas of improvement for a practice. Patient satisfaction defines the success of a medical practice by directly deciding clinical outcomes and patient retention. Patient demographics and personality, and market competition also influence patient satisfaction.
A healthcare practice relies on patient satisfaction to understand if their services are keeping their patients happy, and also determine if the healthcare providers are on their best behavior to treat the patients with respect. It is also a precursor of patient compliance, loyalty, and retention. If a healthcare service provider comes through for indulging the needs of a patient, a patient feels loyal towards the practice, returns for follow-up, and even provides referrals. Patient satisfaction reduces the risk of malpractice claims and improves staff productivity. Medical practitioners also gain fulfillment due to its correlation with patient satisfaction.
Since patient satisfaction cannot be simply observed or narrated to improve the healthcare industry, it becomes important to evaluate it with the help of a tool. That is where patient surveys come in.
What are patient surveys?
Patient surveys are a measurement tool to quantify the patient-healthcare provider relationship. These surveys help in collecting valuable feedback, which can be analyzed and condensed into meaningful data to formulate quality improvement for the future.
Patient surveys rely on the patient’s expectations about various aspects of healthcare – both clinical and non clinical. These parameters may include quality of care, pain management, medication communication, skill and behavior of doctors and staff, availability of facilities, cleanliness, discharge information etc. However, the patient surveys must be standardized depending on the sector of healthcare and its patients, in order to obtain actionable data.
Patient surveys can be handed to patients physically (compiling data from these is comparatively harder) or through online means such as texts or emails. There are several third-party service providers, which help in collecting and assessing the patient feedback.
Why do patient surveys matter?
Every patient avails services of a healthcare provider based on two factors: the reputation of the practice and provision of optimal care. The patient seeks value in these services and in today’s highly competitive world, a healthcare provider can face great challenges in keeping the business up and running if patients are satisfied with them. Healthcare patient satisfaction significantly affects both patients and healthcare providers, who can do everything right and still fail if the patients do not feel satisfied about getting value out of the money spent. Patient surveys:
-are a valuable medium for finding the areas of healthcare that must be enhanced or corrected to retain patients
-provide a way of assessing whether patients are being taken care of
-are beneficial in regards to gaining a look into first-hand experience of the patients and use it as a template for improvement
-provide you with an opportunity to fix your practice’s shortcomings.
Types of patient surveys
- Risk evaluation surveys by doctors
To identify the next step in treatment, doctors often analyze health risks associated with a patient. In order to personalize the patient care, healthcare providers send out risk evaluation surveys to assess needs of the patient and create contingency plans according to the risk involved.
- Patient satisfaction surveys
These types of surveys allow the healthcare provider to obtain patient feedback regarding their services. The data collected from these surveys help in improving healthcare quality. Patient satisfaction surveys include questions about the quality of care, performance of staff, and communication with the healthcare personnel.
- Follow-up surveys after discharge
The healthcare providers can also take the initiative to send out follow-up surveys to monitor the patient’s health after transitioning from the hospital to their homes. These patient surveys help in retaining the patients by showing that their healthcare provider is invested in their health outside of the hospital.
Key areas of focus in patient surveys to improve healthcare quality
It is essential to identify key areas of focus that should be included in patient surveys. These parameters involve elements concerned with patients, doctors, nurses, administration, and other support staff. Once the areas have been identified, the healthcare provider can generate a patient survey for assessment. One of the standardized patient surveys used nationally by hospitals is the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) survey, developed by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). The HCAHPS survey has three goals:
-obtaining patient feedback about quality of care to generate meaningful comparisons between medical practices
-incentivizing improvement of quality of health care
-ensuring transparency in the availability of patient feedback data for accountability in the healthcare industry.
While creating a healthcare patient satisfaction survey template, the focus must be on the following areas;
Patient satisfaction depends on how readily appointments are available for a particular medical practitioner. It is also crucial that the practice’s or hospital’s location is accessible. The patient satisfaction survey can have questions pertaining to how long the patient had to wait to get an appointment with the doctor they wished to consult.
- Doctor-patient relationship
Since the goal of any patient is to obtain optimal treatment for their ailments, it is important to establish effective communication between the patient and the doctor. The doctor must treat their patients with respect and listen to their complaints properly. The patient surveys can contain questions about the behavior of the doctor, and their willingness to listen and explain things to satisfy the patient.
- Nurse-patient relationship
Nurses, administrators, and other support staff are always first in line while creating an impression on the patients. The nurses have to be courteous and communicate the medications and other instructions to the patient. The patient surveys must include questions regarding the efficiency of nurses in attending to the patients and resolving their issues.
- Healthcare Practice experience
A good medical practice experience depends on successful treatment and the quality of care. The patient surveys should ask the patients if they feel satisfied with their treatment and the skill of the doctor. There should also be an inquiry into the stay required for recovery post treatment. The patient surveys can be used to collect feedback about the helpfulness of the staff in managing the patient’s pain and medication.
- Medical Facility environment
Besides the quality of treatment and care, patient satisfaction is heavily reliant on the physical environment. Patients can be asked if they found the medical facility’s premises clean and quiet. The patient surveys must also have questions about house-keeping and whether the patient’s comfort was ensured.
- Discharge evaluation
The patient satisfaction surveys must ask for patient feedback on the discharge process. The questions can include the time taken for discharge, help provided to smoothen the process and information provided to ensure efficient transition.
Approach and timing for patient surveys
Once the healthcare patient satisfaction survey template has been created, the surveys have to be distributed to the patients. Some hospitals prefer to engage patients for in-house feedback through paper surveys. Although this translates to maximum engagement, the results obtained require more effort to be converted into quantifiable form. This distribution method is also comparatively expensive and unscalable. Phone surveys also have similar limitations. According to Surveymonkey, healthcare providers can ask patients to answer survey questions on a tablet in the waiting room. On the other hand, hospitals often reach out to third-party providers to obtain feedback through online channels.
The patient surveys can be sent out through automated messaging systems. There are several mediums to send out patient surveys such as emails, SMS, social media direct messaging. Sending these surveys directly to the inbox through an SMS is the best strategy due to increased usage of smartphones. Patients are more likely to fill out surveys sent through text messages as they are convenient to access and have high open rates.
The timing of the message is also crucial. Ideally, the healthcare provider should send out a survey to the patient immediately after their visit. Otherwise, the surveys can be sent to the patients after working hours when they are free to attend to such activities. Patients are also more likely to fill out surveys during weekdays instead of weekends. Patient surveys sent out through emails may get lost among other important work emails at the beginning of the week; therefore, the healthcare provider should pick hours before 10am or just after lunch break to ensure a response from the patients.
Converting patient surveys into valuable data
If the feedback is being obtained in electronic form, it becomes easier for the hospitals to receive meaningful data. However, the collected data has to be translated into usable information through analysis. The healthcare providers can process the survey feedback with the help of data analysis tools like statistical analysis, data analytics, and charts and graphs. These tools allow the survey conductor to process the data both qualitatively and quantitatively. Once the raw data has been converted into meaningful statistics, the healthcare provider can draw conclusions based on them. Patient survey data analysis is a significant step in understanding the strengths and shortcomings of a business practice and lets the healthcare provider give a new direction to their services.
Patient satisfaction is a significant indicator of healthcare quality and patient surveys help in assessing issues related to patient care. The feedback accumulated from patient satisfaction surveys allows medical practitioners, nurses, support staff, and hospital administration to devise strategies for quality improvement. Patient surveys, which are an essential tool for hospitals to ensure patient retention, should be standardized and the template should have questions pertaining to the quality of care, communication with doctors and other staff, and the hospital environment. Actionable data obtained from the assessment of patient surveys are useful for hospitals to improve healthcare quality.