In the digital age, everyone is searching for new ways to measure performance. Now, hospitals, surgeries and clinics are striving to quantify the care they give and measure how satisfied patients are with their experience.
While, traditionally, healthcare providers have been judged on the quality of their care, the increasing consumerism of the industry means attention is being shifted towards how patients feel about their experience.
This step away from objective measurement based on treatment outcomes has its problems – when it comes to healthcare, the customer really isn't always right. But, so long as it's not at the expense of the quality of care, improving patient satisfaction is of increasing importance as healthcare organisations face greater competition for patients and funding.
In this confusing time, how can providers ensure they're measuring patient satisfaction while also creating space for objective insight into the quality of care that hospitals, surgeries and clinics are delivering?
1. Feedback and Complaints
All organisations should be accountable to their consumers, and healthcare organisations are no exception. In fact, it might be said that it’s even more vital for surgeries, clinics and hospitals to be open to patient feedback because providers obviously play such an important role in patients’ wellbeing.
One simple way of measuring patient satisfaction is just to ensure they have a forum in which their voice is heard. This could be as simple as keeping a "patient feedback" box in your reception area or as extensive as empowering them to air their opinions in person by holding regular "Meet the Practice Manager" evenings.
However, patient feedback alone may not provide an accurate view of patient satisfaction, with surveys showing that only 4% of consumers will actually complain when they are unhappy.
While we wouldn’t recommend relying solely on patient feedback to fuel your efforts to improve your services, it can be used to establish an idea of how satisfied your patients are. And, if patient satisfaction is going to heavily influence your strategy, we advise advertising that you would like patient feedback – this should hopefully increase your data-pool.
2. Online Ratings
We live in an increasingly digital world, and this means that when patients are researching potential healthcare providers the first thing they do is jump online and search for reviews. In fact, recent data shows that 80% of patients now use the internet to make decisions about their healthcare.
A survey from doctor.com also showed that:
- 81% of patients said they read online provider reviews
- 60% said they have chosen one provider over another because of positive online reviews
- 90% will change their mind about a referral if they see a poor online review (three stars or fewer)
- 53% said they would change their mind about a provider they had already seen due to poor online reviews
- 70% of patients said reviews about quality of care are most important and influential
- 60% said they would not book an appointment with a provider that had poor quality scores online
Although healthcare in the UK differs significantly from our cousins across the Atlantic, the power of online reviews cannot be questioned. They're becoming even more vital to success too, as the NHS increases the number of patients it refers to private healthcare providers – making the industry more competitive by removing the significant barrier of price.
A quick online search for the name of your practice, hospital or surgery should provide you with a wide range of reviews from Google, the NHS Choices website, the care quality commission and a plethora of third-party review sites.
Again, while these reviews and scores may provide some idea of how happy your patients are, you should bear in mind that high patient satisfaction doesn’t always equate to a high-standard of healthcare.
You should also be mindful that you don’t know how online patient satisfaction scores are calculated and any questionnaires are often written with a bias. Any third-party websites or apps likely have their own agenda and it might be worth treating the results with a pinch of salt.
A study by Rashid Al-Abri and Amina Al-Balushi, Patient Satisfaction Survey as a Tool Towards Quality Improvement, concurs:
“…there is a lack of standardization. The researchers questioned the reliability and validity of survey instruments produced by disparate private companies. They concluded that patient feedback is a critical tool for improvement.”
3. Patient Satisfaction Surveys
The best way to assess patient satisfaction at your clinic, surgery or hospital is simply to measure it for yourself. This is the only method that ensures you have a full understanding of the demographics captured, 100% transparency pertaining to the content of the surveys and that the results are free from bias.
Of course, you should be careful when designing your survey that the questions you’re asking will garner results that are actually useful to you. A poorly though out survey will likely provide as little insight as a survey full of bias, and you should make sure you consider the following questions:
- How are you going to deliver the survey? Will you mail it to your patients, ask them to answer a few questions at the end of appointments or integrate the survey with your digital tools?
- Are the questions brief, clear and consistent? Keep in mind that some patients won’t understand medical language and changes to format are confusing – for example, a score of "1" meaning “very satisfied” in some questions but “extremely unacceptable” in others.
- Have you included any open-ended questions to capture qualitative information that otherwise will go unexplored?
- Is it accessible and inclusive? Modern society is very diverse and you want to capture information from patients across all walks of life
- How do you plan on analysing the data? Can you afford for staff to do this manually or do you need to outsource this job?
It's important to remember that two patients receiving identical care may have vastly opposing opinions on what they expect from healthcare and will therefore give you very different responses if you try to measure how satisfied they are with their treatment.
It's this subjectivity that makes it difficult to extract meaningful insight from the results of any attempts to assess patient satisfaction. As such, healthcare providers would do well to avoid relying solely on patient satisfaction data to lead their strategy.
You should also ensure you're mindful that patient satisfaction attributes more weight to making patients feel good about their experience, as opposed to delivering a high standards of healthcare. Ultimately, patients might be dissatisfied they didn’t receive a specific medicine or treatment, but this should not overrule a medical practitioner's professional opinion.
Providers can instead discover better insights into the quality of their care and patient opinions by drawing on a wide range of tools, including many that complement patient satisfaction.
For example, a well-crafted patient survey can actually reveal a lot about patient satisfaction, patient experience and patient engagement – encompassing the entire healthcare experience and providing a much more accurate measurement of your performance.
Click here for more information on how you can use customer experience to improve the quality of care at your practice, clinic or hospital.Back to blog