How to Create a Meaningful Patient Satisfaction Survey

Conducting patient satisfaction surveys is essential to growing and improving your practice.

Posted by Dave on March 7, 2020

Whether or not you should be conducting satisfaction surveys with your patients is no longer a question.

Studies show again and again that there's a direct correlation and specific opportunity for proactive improvement when you have the benefit of patient sentiment through surveys. Having this direct connection to your patient base allows you to plan and adjust your practice's policies to increase its quality and therefore overall patient satisfaction. Happy patients offer referrerals via word of mouth and tend to stay with your practice for a lifetime.

In addition, administering patient satisfaction surveys demonstrates to your patients that your practice is truly interested in making a difference and improving the quality and overall care for them.

In order to make the most of your surveys and the information they will be gathering, it is important to keep a few general guidelines in mind.

According to the American Academy of Family Practitioners, the primary goals when interacting with patients are:

  1. Provide quality healthcare.
  2. Make that care accessible.
  3. Treat patients with courtesy and respect.
It is therefore imperative that your survey has a range of questions that provide as clear a view as possible into each of these topics. intensiForms' Patient Satisfaction Survey provides straightforward questions pertaining directly to these important goals.

Keep your questions as simple and straight-forward as possible.

You should avoid being vague or ambiguous. Never ask more than one question at a time. For example, instead of asking "Were you able to schedule your appointment easily and were you seen on time?", create two questions: one that inquires as to the ease of which a patient was able to schedule, and a second question about the timeframe in which the patient was seen. Doing this enables a much more valuable and straightforward approach when it comes time to actually bring the surveys together to conduct scoring and analysis.

Always use consistent scales.

The National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA) recommends a five-point scale, ranging from "strongly disagree" to "strongly agree" and similar. By default, intensiForms uses the five-point scale, but regardless of the scale size you use for your survey, keep them consistent. Ten-point scales are great also, but do not "mix and match" 5 points and 10 points on the same survey or your resulting outcomes will be hard to analyze and map.

Provide an open-ended question.

It is also important that you always have at least one open-ended question that allows your patient the freedom to speak "her mind" as opposed to just checking boxes and radios. It can be incredibly powerful to be able to correlate written sentiment, in addition to just a number. For example, 3.5 out of 5 is more meaningful when you allow users to be specific about things they liked or didn't like about your practice.

Allow for anonymity.

In general, it has been shown that more patients are more likely to provide responses when they are guaranteed of their anonymity. On average, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) states that research participants are far more likely to disclose sensitive and personal information more readily when completing anonymous self-administered questionnaires and surveys as opposed to those that are conducted face-to-face or on the phone.

Keep it short.

NIH studies have shown that shorter surveys were more reliable and produced higher response and completion rates than long surveys. In general, you should the length it requires to complete your survey to a maximum of five (5) minutes.

A reasonable sample size.

Although it goes without saying, the quality and accuracy of your feedback increases with each response you receive. Therefore, a simple aspect is to make certain that you have obtained enough data before attempting to conduct any type of analysis on it. The minimum number of responses needed for a reasonable sampling is 200. Any number above this can only increase the effectiveness of your survey's results.

According to the NIH, response rates (the percentage of responses received from those sent) can be as high as 70% when conducted via an Internet-based response system such as the one offered by intensiForms.

Making sense of the results.

It can be tempting to just lump each 5-point scale question together and look for an average, but this skews the results and often hides direct areas of opportunity for improvement. It is important that you keep each response separate and look for an overall average over each, for all of your responses.

A live example:

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The intensiForms survey creation platform follows these guidelines and provides a simple, ready-to-use template for an effective Patient Satisfaction Survey. Quickly customize the template to fit the needs of your practice or create your own fully custom surveys.

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