This post was written by our guest blogger Mark Dengler, who is President of Research & Marketing Strategies (RMS) – a patient satisfaction survey vendor located in NY.
In this age of the Internet and social media, word-of-mouth can still be the best advertising tool available. It can also be detrimental to any business’ reputation. In other industries, companies employ the concept of Customer Relationship Management (CRM), which focuses on continuously interacting with the customer – not just when there is a direct interaction between the company and the customer, such as a purchase. This CRM concept is starting to take hold in the healthcare industry. Providers are recognizing that they can and should effectively manage the physician/patient relationship as part of their CRM activities.
One key tool in managing patient relations is through patient satisfaction surveying. Regular patient satisfaction surveying creates an open dialogue with patients whereby they can provide experiential feedback. Patient satisfaction surveys are short, easily administered questionnaires that provide information and insight into a patient’s view of the care and services provided. Supplying patients with a platform to share their healthcare experience helps a practice stay in touch with what matters the most – patient satisfaction. It also makes patients feel that the practice cares about their input. It is important to note each patient’s experience is not limited solely to their interaction with the doctor. There is the phone call to set up an appointment, time in the waiting room, interactions with staff at check-in and check-out, and more. The entire process can be evaluated by asking patients the right questions and monitoring their feedback. Results can then be used to design and track strategies for quality improvement over time, as well as compare the practice to other health care providers.
Why should you conduct patient satisfaction surveying? First, it makes good sense in pursuit of quality health care delivery. It is also a means of engaging patients in their care experience. As health care delivery continues its transformation with accountable care, patient satisfaction surveying is emerging as a core requirement. Patient satisfaction surveys identify areas of excellent service as well as opportunities for service improvement. Some will argue, “I’m here to save lives, not to make friends.” However, studies have found strong correlations between higher patient satisfaction and enhanced revenue, as well as reduced patient mortality. This is because a satisfied patient not only improves a practice’s patient loyalty and referrals, but is also more likely to follow care plans. On the other hand, a dissatisfied patient is more likely to withhold information about his/her health, call the office to ask questions he/she didn’t ask during the visit to the physician’s office and share negative information about a practice with others. In the end, a patient who feels appreciated by and engaged with the practice will want to please the doctor and follow the rules – while a single dissatisfied patient tells up to 20 individuals about a poor experience.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) currently uses measures of patient satisfaction to help determine compensation through the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS®) survey instrument, as well as Home Health CAHPS®, which was recently implemented. Clinician and Group CAHPS® survey instruments are being field tested and made available for use by physician practices. It is clear that CMS expects providers in ambulatory care settings such as physician practices to engage in patient satisfaction surveying.
For practices who are currently conducting surveys, it is important to demonstrate action taken based on review of the survey results. This means organizing and recording all patient responses, measuring response frequencies, looking for correlations between question responses and reviewing verbatim responses. Practices cannot let the surveys sit on a shelf, nor should they discard negative surveys or just look at the top or bottom findings of the scales. Areas of service excellence should be identified and celebrated among staff. These areas should be reviewed to determine whether standards can be modeled in other areas of the practice. Excellent patient satisfaction ratings can be used in marketing/promoting the practice. Areas in need of improvement should be researched to determine possible causes for the patient dissatisfaction. Staff should be engaged to brainstorm ideas for making changes. The practice must create an action plan for correcting and implementing new changes. Finally, a re-evaluation of patient satisfaction after changes have been implemented needs to be conducted. Ongoing surveying will allow you to make changes and see how those changes affect your patients’ perceptions of care. Patient satisfaction surveying is a critical means for engaging your patient population and identifying ways to optimize patient care delivery.
RMS Healthcare, a division of RMS, offers focused, healthcare specific consulting and research services to health care clients. Contact Mark at (315) 635-9802 or (866) 567-5422 or via e-mail at MarkD@RMSresults.com, to see how RMS can help you.