When it comes to medical office procedures, the “customer” isn’t necessarily always right. Letting your patients influence the way you run your practice through patient surveys can send your office down a slippery slope. However, there are times when patient satisfaction surveys are a necessary evil and can be an important part of your administration. These surveys can have a positive impact on a practice, but are they the best idea for your office? Here’s are look at some of the pros and cons of surveying your patients and acting on the results.
Can surveys actually hurt patient care?
In 2013, the Keystone Physician journal published an editorial written by Dr. William Sonnenberg, president of the Pennsylvania Academy of Family Physicians. In this editorial, Dr. Sonnenberg addressed the idea of using patient satisfaction as a guide for physician evaluations and payment. He reasoned that surveys are not the best way to measure a practice’s and physician’s success and can potentially harm patient care. Often the pressure of gaining good survey scores can cause unintentional outcomes. Physicians may lean towards giving into someone’s wants, rather than their needs. For example, in Dr. Sonnenberg’s editorial he discusses a “physician in the audience who told the crowd that he was able to increase his satisfaction score by 7% simply by prescribing an antibiotic to all patients who call with a complaint of cough, sore throat, or sinus headache.” As our society is rapidly building immunities to many antibiotics, this is not the healthiest way to treat a common cold.
Patient feedback is useful information.
While there are some obvious drawbacks to taking surveys, some of the data can be helpful to your practice and your doctors. Not only do questionnaires create a dialogue between providers and patients, it provides recognition for people who go above the minimum requirements. Answers to questions about waiting times, knowledgeable staff members, even office atmosphere issues can be addressed and improved.
It’s impossible to score high all of the time.
The format of these surveys can often set up a medical practice for failure by including absolute words with little to no room for clarification. Words like “always” or “never” leave a lot of room for speculation with no conversation that helps find a solution.
Surveys can be motivators.
Knowing that patients are going to evaluate their visit can be a positive motivator for doctors and administrative staff. This can lead to simple improvements like more personal engagement, extra smiles, or better eye contact with the thought of positive reinforcement in mind.
However you feel about satisfaction surveys, don’t plan on them going away any time soon. Establish a plan among your team to improve survey scores and your patients’ experience. Utilize the data received, but don’t let it negatively affect the quality of care that your practice offers. We would love to hear your thoughts and experiences with satisfaction surveys on our Facebook page.Posted by