Although consumer surveys have long been used to fine-tune customer experience in the retail and service industries, healthcare providers have mostly underestimated this kind of feedback. What benefits have they missed out on by treating patient surveys as nothing more than a box-checking exercise?
1. Starting a Conversation with Patients
One of most notable benefits of surveying patients is simply letting them know you’re listening to them. And while this may not seem significant now, it's likely to be vital as the UK healthcare industry moves closer to a patient-as-consumer model.
Of course, it's never going to be a bad thing to have direct insight into whether patients are satisfied with their experience of your practice, surgery or hospital. Building stronger relationships with patients will also help providers, because, as with any consumer-facing business, people like to tell others about good experiences.
If you can demonstrate that you listen to patients and make meaningful changes in response, word of mouth will soon spread, and your patient-base will likely grow.
2. Increase Patient Engagement
Patient engagement is becoming increasingly important for healthcare providers, with proven associations between many positive health outcomes and patient engagement. In fact, numerous reports and studies have shown that the more active patients are in their healthcare, the more likely they are to:
- Feel confident about managing their conditions
- Recall necessary information and knowledge
- Report that the chosen treatment was right for them
- Feel satisfied with their care and treatment
- Adhere to their chosen treatment according to protocols
- Participate in monitoring and prevention activities
Despite the public now knowing much more about illnesses and their treatment than ever, traditional healthcare paternalism has left patients feeling jaded with the level of agency they've had in their care. Obviously, this isn't ideal as the UK moves towards a more preventive approach to healthcare, with a greater focus on ensuring patients are engaged with their health and active participants in their care.
By performing surveys you're demonstrating to patients that you care about the quality of their care, are looking for ways improve your services and want them to actively participate in managing their health. There can be little doubt that patients knowing they have a say in the future of their surgery, practice or hospital means they're more likely to be engaged with their treatment and care.
3. Identify Your Strengths
Long waiting times and difficulties with booking appointments are obviously extremely irritating for patients, and often they aren’t shy about verbalising it. However, the same is rarely true when queues are well-managed and appointments are readily available.
Patient surveys are your opportunity to identify exactly where you’re getting things right as a healthcare provider – which is often something that goes under the radar.
There are two ways this is beneficial: firstly, it gives you a chance to celebrate your strengths, and, secondly, it empowers you to explore why these elements of your service are working so well. You can learn just as much from positive feedback as you can from complaints, so do your best to understand your successes and replicate them where possible.
4. Eliminate Your Accessibility and Inclusivity Blind Spots
As a healthcare provider, it's your responsibility to ensure the services you provide are delivered in ways that aren't at all exclusionary. It’s also understandable that, unless you have lived experience of being marginalised, there may be gaps in your knowledge!
Obviously, you should already be supplying translated healthcare information in a variety of languages, ensuring digital check-in kiosks come complete with accessibility features and taking into account any healthcare issues that might prevent patients from accessing your services.
By making sure you’re paying extra attention to any accessibility and inclusivity issues that are raised, you can remedy the situation as soon as possible. You should also be considering further action like working closely with local advocacy groups or holding monthly forums for differently-abled people to speak up.
5. Improve Performance
Performing patient surveys is the perfect opportunity for providers to identify potential shortfalls in the healthcare experiences they deliver. Designing patient surveys around the areas of service that are most in need of development is a great tactic for discovering ways you can improve your performance.
This idea is supported by research by the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA) which shows that almost 80% of “better-performing” medical practices use patient surveys frequently to assess a wide range of criteria – from professionalism of staff and availability of appointments to the overall experience with the provider.
It's important to remember that improving performance isn't just a "one-and-done" situation. Make sure you perform follow-up surveys on the issue to gauge how patients feel about your solution.
6. Incredibly Versatile
Finally, patient surveys are a great tool for healthcare providers because they’re extremely versatile. They can actually be used to assess your performance across an almost infinite number of criteria – the only limit being your ability to come up with insightful questions.
For many providers, simple surveys to measure the general patient experience will be adequate. These are unlikely to provide detailed insight into your performance, but will help reveal areas of service which you could improve.
Other providers will see a general survey as preliminary activity and will use more surveys in the future to dig deeply into particular areas of service. This method is great for tackling specific problem areas within your practice, surgery or hospital and identifying how patients feel the issue should be solved.
It’s important to keep in mind that unless you have analytic software you can use to interpret the responses, you’ll need to factor in plenty of time to work through all the data and analyse the results manually.
The adoption of patient surveys as a measure of performance comes in the face of opposition from many healthcare practitioners who believe these surveys undermine the delivery of high-quality healthcare. This concern is not without merit. After all, “the customer is always right” doesn’t apply when it comes to healthcare.
However, this doesn’t invalidate the use of patient surveys to measure other elements of the healthcare experience. Rather than attempting to measure the quality of the medical treatment provided, they should be used as a tool to assess the experience a patient has with a surgery, practice or hospital.
There are many benefits to performing patient surveys but perhaps the most valuable is that they empower healthcare providers to identify what areas of service they deliver well and which need to be improved.
Providers who are serious about improving or modernising patient experience will want to perform regular surveys and dig deep into how patients feel problem areas could be addressed – without causing too much extra work for staff.
Thankfully, some contemporary digital healthcare solutions come complete with patient survey modules which make it simple to design, deliver, and analyse patient feedback surveys. Which means it's easier than ever to tackle concerns over patient engagement and experience.
To find out more about improving patient experience within your practice, surgery or hospital, download our new eBook today.Back to blog