In this increasingly digital world, patients have access to more information and resources than ever before.
This can be a great thing—it can help them understand certain ailments, find beneficial services and experts (like yourself), and even uncover online communities of support.
This new era of access helps to break down the traditionally stuffy, closed-door perception of healthcare and evolve it into a patient-centric professional service. Because of this, it’s important that healthcare providers and specialized practitioners view patients and clients as consumers—and treat them as such.
There are many different ways to do this successfully, some of which we will touch on in future posts, but there is one critical aspect that we’ll focus on here: Feedback.
What Makes Feedback Valuable?
As consumers, we often feel compelled to share our personal experiences, both privately and publicly.
Maybe a customer service rep helped you with a shipping debacle, or you had a less-than-stellar dinner out, or the movers you used were professional, efficient, and took special care of your belongings.
For better or for worse, we share these experiences to help inform other consumers, acknowledge exceptional service, and (hopefully) improve a business.
It’s human nature for consumers to want to feel heard and valued, so it’s important that we give them proper opportunities to do so—especially when it comes to something as significant as healthcare.
Eliciting patient feedback offers four key benefits:
- Lets you know what you’re doing well and what you should continue to do.
- Brings issues to your attention, giving your team the opportunity to improve.
- Increases patient satisfaction by empowering your patients and showing them you care.
- Can potentially attract new patients when positive feedback is shared. (In fact, over 32% of consumers said that patient ratings/reviews of doctors was the most important information to them when visiting a hospital website.)
Types of Feedback to Consider
There are many different forms of feedback and ways to collect it. Some of these include
– Patient testimonials: These can be gathered from the patient directly following the appointment, either verbally or in writing, or from a post-appointment survey. Patient testimonials are great to include on websites and social media accounts for others to see.
– Patient reviews/ratings: These are similar to testimonials, but are usually gathered on third-party sites (i.e. Google, Facebook, Yelp, Angie’s List, etc.). Though some patients will do this on their own, you can also politely ask a patient to share their positive experience in a follow-up email or within a post-appointment survey.
– Patient surveys: As mentioned in the two examples above, offering patients a cohesive, post-appointment survey is a great way to get a holistic sense of their experience. It puts you in charge of the questions, so you have more control over the information you’ll receive.
Why You Should Use Patient Surveys
Traditional mailed surveys of the past aren’t very effective anymore. That’s because it’s best to attempt to survey a patient/client when the experience is fresh in their head. As the old saying goes: “Timing is everything.”
Using an automated online survey is a great way to get quick and more accurate feedback from patients. It’s also more convenient for the patient (no need for them to have to put it in the mail), so they are more likely to take the time to complete it. Plus, there are no mailing costs for you!
It can also be a good idea to give the option for feedback to be anonymous. This makes the patient feel more comfortable, meaning you’ll get more honest insight. Tools like IntakeQ give you the ability to use anonymous forms, thus increasing your response rate and making the information more beneficial.
Also, be mindful of the patient’s time. You’ll want to collect sufficient feedback, but you don’t want to send out something that could be a time burden. Try to keep your survey brief, so that a person can successfully complete it in a short amount of time.
A study conducted by Survey Monkey found that abandon rates increase when a survey takes more than 7-8 minutes, which roughly translates to 15 questions, so keep that in mind.
And, of course, don’t forget to make sure everything is HIPAA compliant!
What Questions Should You Ask?
First, you’ll need to decide how you want to ask your questions in the survey. Do you want to use a numbered scale (e.g. on a scale of 1-10, with 1 being low and 10 being high), a Likert scale (a point system that determines how much the person agrees or disagrees with a statement), or open-ended questions?
You can choose the format that makes the most sense for the type of information you are hoping to retrieve, or use a mix of multiple different ones. There is no right or wrong way to do it.
Of course, the most helpful information to get from a patient survey has to do with their level of satisfaction. You’ll want to get to know their thoughts on all three stages of the appointment:
- Pre-appointment: Ask for feedback on how they came to discover you (if it’s a new patient), the scheduling process, how expectations were discussed, and reminders.
- Appointment: You’ll want to get a sense of their waiting room experience, how your staff interacted with them, and of course the appointment itself.
- Post-appointment: Are they happy with the results? Do they feel they were given ample follow-up communication and next steps were taken, if applicable?
You might want to ask for details about the patient’s lifestyle—do they exercise; what are their eating habits; are they stressed? This is information that you may have already gathered using intake forms, but if not, it’s good background to have on hand.
You can also ask more vague questions that are targeted toward their inclination to recommend your practice. After all, word of mouth is a powerful tool!
How to Handle Negative Feedback
Truth be told, a patient is more likely to provide feedback if they’ve had an exceedingly positive experience—or a negative one.
Listen, things happen, and unfortunately, 100% of your patients can’t be satisfied 100% of the time. Maybe there was a scheduling mix-up, or longer than average wait times, or the service/treatment provided wasn’t up to usual standards.
All you can do is use the information to improve your business and leverage the opportunity to address the issues directly with the patient (if it’s not anonymous feedback). This gives you more personalized communication with the individual, and can actually boost their satisfaction and your reputation.
And because people who have a negative experience are more apt to complain on their own without being prompted, you may want to address some negative online reviews.
No worries though, we’ve got you covered. Check out our previous blog titled “When Should You Respond to Bad Online Reviews of Your Practice?” for advice on how to handle those kinds of situations.
Feedback can sound like a scary word, especially when a person feels defensive of their life’s work (understandably so). But, you should make it a habit to ask for each patient’s opinion because you genuinely want it and will use it to better your business.
Just keep in mind that you’ll want to get feedback both efficiently and effectively, so taking advantage of an online patient survey might be your best bet.