How to Measure Patient Satisfaction

While patient satisfaction has been an important topic for decades now, the recent increase in emphasis on quality of care and value-based payment models has brought more attention to the concept. But measuring patient satisfaction can be tricky.

There are three main parts of the process: creating a useful survey, distributing the survey, and accurately analyzing the results. It might sound intimidating, but you don’t need a background in market research and statistics to measure your patients’ satisfaction. Just keep the following tips in mind:

Create a Useful Survey

1. Keep it simple.

Clarity and brevity are the keys to a good response rate. Many practices choose to use or adapt a survey from an outside vendor to ensure that the questions have been tested and validated. But if you decide to create your own survey, include only the most relevant questions.

Ask about the most important aspects of your patient experience or the ones that are most closely related to your goals. For example, the questions could address quality of care, access, and interactions with physicians and staff. And don’t forget to ask one overarching question about the patient’s satisfaction to give you a sense of your overall performance. You’ll be able to use this information as a single measure of patient satisfaction.

2. Be consistent.

Avoid using biased or vague questions. By paying careful attention to the wording of each question, you’ll garner more accurate results and specific feedback. Make sure the majority of the survey uses the same answer scale, whether that’s a four-, five-, or ten-point scale (e.g., a range of “Excellent” to “Poor”) so you’re able to compare the results. You can also include a couple of open-ended questions to gain a deeper understanding of the quantitative results.

3. Capture demographic information.

While most physicians allow survey respondents to remain anonymous (to ensure they’re receiving honest responses), it’s a good idea to request some demographic information. Gaining a sense of how different groups of patients respond will help you identify the issues and put the right improvements in place.

Distribute the Survey

1. Timeliness matters.

Research from The New England Journal of Medicine shows that distributing patient surveys during office visits—or soon afterward—improves your chances of collecting meaningful and accurate data. Also, consider limiting your request for patient feedback to a specific office visit, as this will improve the correlation between patient experiences and health outcomes.

2. Distribute the surveys in person or via mail.

Some experts suggest mailing the surveys to reduce the possibility of unwanted bias or influence. (If you do this, be sure to include a postage-paid return envelope to help boost the response rate!) If the cost of doing a large mailing is too much for your practice, then be sure your staff hands them out consistently—to every patient, every fifth patient, or whatever frequency you set.

Accurately Analyze the Results

1. Use a large sample size.

A minimum of 200 responses is a suggested sample size. However, since response rates are typically only 30 to 35 percent, you’ll have to distribute more than 600 surveys to get a large enough sample from which to draw any valid conclusions.

2. Account for individual responses.

Determine how you will aggregate the results. One way to go: use a weighted average based on your answer scale, rather than lumping together “positive” and “negative” responses. This technique will allow you to maximize even a smaller sample size.

Next Steps

Once you’ve analyzed all of the results, you’ll have to decide how to use the information. Determine what improvements you’d like to make—and celebrate any positive feedback too.

Remember, the idea of “satisfaction” carries different meanings for different people, and it can be influenced by a number of factors too. It’s a tough thing to accurately measure, but surveying your patients is still a useful way to gain some helpful information for the future.


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