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How can patient satisfaction surveys help improve your medical practice?

How can patient satisfaction surveys help improve your medical practice?


Although it can help you identify gaps and develop a plan to improve the quality of healthcare services you offer, there are two schools of thought on surveying patients for improving medical practice. One believes that the results are not worth the time and money involved, while the other believes that the road to better care and happier patients leads only through patient satisfaction surveys. 

So which is it? Should you or should you not conduct Patient Satisfaction Surveys?

To help you out, we started unstacking the research done on the impact of patient satisfaction surveys on bettering a medical practice. However, there are very few published studies that report on the improvements that result from the feedback received from patient satisfaction surveys, and in most cases, the findings of these studies are contradictory.

But, we dug deeper. 

Before we start, we must confess that the team at MMP belongs to the second school of thought. Why? Conduction satisfaction surveys indicate that you care about quality and are looking for ways to improve. The healthcare industry relies heavily on data, and the data you gather will be invaluable for the whole industry. 

Extensive studies have shown that if a physician is ineffective in communicating effectively with their patient, they may be of little assistance to the patient.  

So, let us proceed if you belong to the second school of thought as well. 

What does the research say on Patient Satisfaction Surveys?

In 2006, Laurent et al. conducted a study named 'Perception and use of the results of patient satisfaction surveys by care providers in a French teaching hospital' in which they aimed to quantify the opinions of clinical staff working in a tertiary teaching hospital on patient satisfaction surveys and its use within the quality improvement process.

They were surprised to find out a favorable result of 94%. The surveyed believed that patients could assess hospital service quality, particularly in relational, organizational, and environmental dimensions. 

In 1996, all French hospitals were required to evaluate patient satisfaction, while measuring satisfaction has been required as part of quality management reports in Germany since 2005. 

Despite a stated interest in satisfaction surveys, the results are underutilized by hospital staff and underutilized within teams.

One of the reasons could be that there is no consensus in the literature on how to define patient satisfaction in healthcare. And even if you find some of the scarce definitions that exist, there are varying perceptions on the definition of patient satisfaction from different authors.  

Patient satisfaction is defined as a patient-reported outcome measure in Donabedian's quality measurement model, while patient-reported experiences can be used to assess the structures and processes of care.

Some define patient satisfaction as patients' emotions, feelings, and perception of delivered healthcare services, while others describe it as a patients' attitude toward care or aspects of care. 

Then again, few authors have defined patient satisfaction as the degree of agreement between patients' expectations of ideal care and their perceptions of actual care received.

How to measure patient satisfaction?

Now you know the research, the data, and the inconclusiveness behind patient satisfaction surveys. 

Are you ready to take the next steps of actually measuring and analyzing the data to improve your medical practice? 

                                  Start measuring patient satisfaction

If yes, then below are some of the necessary items you would require in your arsenal. 

Embracing environment

You would not be able to get anything meaningful out of the surveys if the work environment at your practice does not embrace change. First, you would have to cultivate an environment that endorses quality improvement.

Prepare a budget 

A significant step is determining how much money you can afford to invest in a survey project and how expensive yours is likely to be. 

The primary physical costs of a survey are merely paper, printing, and postage, but there are staff-related costs for creating the survey instrument, selecting a sample, preparing the survey for mailing, tabulating the replies, and interpreting the results.

If the budget overflows, you can do in-house surveys instead of outsourcing it through a vendor. 

Decide on the right tool 

There are several ways you could conduct a patient satisfaction survey. For example, you could do it on the phone, in writing, in focus groups, or even in personal interviews. Deciding on the one that would fulfill your survey requirements and stay within your budget is key. Written surveys tend to be the most cost-efficient and reliable. But, if you want to probe more specific information from the survey, phone surveys should be your go-to.  

Small tidbits to keep in mind

The above three are the primary three steps to get you started, but there are a few tidbits that you should keep in mind to help you design the perfect survey. 

  • Include open-ended questions to learn what your patients are saying about you

  • Keep their data anonymous and secure 

  • Ask the hard questions like how satisfied are you with your physician? Don't go roaming around with questions that won't help you improve your practice. 

  • Ask them about the issues that they have been facing. Keep the conversation open.

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