This blog post is a case study for a recent project completed by Research & Marketing Strategies (RMS) for a dermatology practice using patient mystery shopping experiences and market research.

Background: In 2013, a dermatology practice partnered with RMS to better understand and measure the experience of its patients. The practice used mystery shopping services to learn about patient perceptions regarding the care received. Specific objectives of the market research were to evaluate patient experiences based on staff interaction, proficiency, accuracy of clinical information, and levels of delivered service.

patient mystery shopping

Approach: In order to address the objectives at-hand for the dermatology practice, RMS designed a two component market research approach: (1) conducting 21 in-person mystery shops using real patients visiting the dermatology practice and (2) using professional RMS mystery shoppers to place 10 new patient inquiry calls to the practice. For the 1st component, the practice passed RMS secured upcoming patient visits sample which the in-house call center at RMS QualiSight used to recruit patients to assist with the efforts. Interested patients agreed to complete a 41 question (approximately 10 to 15 minute) follow-up survey with a telesurveyor for a $25 honorarium. The 2nd component involved the creation of 10 unique scenarios that professional mystery shoppers would use to call the dermatology office in an attempt to book an appointment as a new patient. These scenarios were provided to the client and signed-off upon in advance before telephone call inquiries began.

Results: Here are a few key takeaways and insights from the patient mystery shopping project –

  • Overall satisfaction with the visit among recent interviewed patients was high, averaging a score of 4.68 out of a possible 5. All 22 participants stated they would be very likely (5) or likely (4) to recommend the practice to a friend or family member. This should be announced and touted through the practice’s PR.
  • Key drivers to dissatisfaction with patient visits at the practice centered around patient wait times (both at check-in and in the exam room), friendliness of staff, and thoroughness of the provider.
  • All three providers scored strongly among patients in terms of satisfaction, however one provider scored consistently lower than other two providers on all tested factors. These factors included professionalism, friendliness, knowledge level, thoroughness of examination provided, ability to explain things in a way the patient could understand, and ability to listen to the patient and answer all questions. Patients who visited with this particular provider also stated the skin examination took shorter than expected with her as compared to examinations by other practice providers.
  • Other suggested improvements from the patient follow-up surveys included making the exchange of patient information at check-in more private, electronic editing options on patient website forms, a stronger commitment to quality checking patient information at check-in, and more discussion about payment responsibilities at the time of check-out.

The dermatology practice is currently using the results and consulting with the RMS Healthcare team to set up on-site training sessions to correct workflow and improve patient experiences in the areas identified. If you are interested in patient mystery shopping for your practice contact our Director of Healthcare Transformation, Susan Maxsween at or call her at 315-635-9802.