Patient feedback is critical.
It allows you to see your practice from your patients’ perspective, revealing issues that you might not be able to see. You need this unique view to make the smartest, best-informed decisions to improve the patient experience.
The best way to get patient feedback is through patient satisfaction surveys. This might sound simple, but there’s more to creating an effective survey than you might think. What are the best questions to ask? How long should your survey be? And how do you make it engaging enough that patients will want to complete it?
Our guide is here to help with top tips for creating the perfect patient satisfaction survey.
Patients are the most important part of any hospital or practice. It’s key that they’re at the heart of what you do. And there’s no better way to make sure of that than to ask for their opinions.
Just because a patient doesn’t complain, it doesn’t mean that they’re happy with your services.
Offering satisfaction surveys shows that you’re prepared to start a conversation with patients, listen to their concerns, and use their feedback to make tangible improvements.
This will help you build stronger relationships with your patients and grow their trust.
Patient feedback is an efficient way to discover what’s working and what’s not. For example, patients might feel that your practice offers fantastic follow-up care but hate how long they must wait for an appointment. You can learn this from feedback gathered through a patient satisfaction survey and act quickly to make improvements.
This applies to where you’re succeeding as well. Identifying your strengths will enable you to replicate them in other areas of your practice.
Patient satisfaction surveys also show you if any changes you make to your practice or hospital are having a positive or negative impact on the patient experience.
For instance, patient feedback might reveal that patients are unhappy with your check-in process. So, you put self-check-in software in place to help make it easier and faster. Did it help? A patient satisfaction survey sent out a few months later will reveal if changes are pushing things in the right direction.
And there's no better way to make sure of that than to ask for their opinions.
To get as many patients engaged with your survey as possible, it needs to be easy to access and simple to complete. If it isn’t quick and convenient, they won’t bother with it.
Online surveys give patients the flexibility to feedback on their mobile devices, where and when they choose, which increases the chances that they’ll respond. They don’t have to remember to fill out a paper survey and mail it back – they can do it with the simple click of a button.
Online surveys are also easier and more flexible for you. You don’t have to waste time compiling and sorting through heaps of paper surveys – you can access and manage survey results from anywhere.
There’s also much greater scope to customise online surveys. You can add checkboxes, dropdown menus, radio buttons, and more with just a few clicks. And if you need to tweak a question, you can adjust online surveys on the fly.
Plus, an online survey module gives you access to built-in analytics and reporting features. This lets you visualise feedback data, track patient satisfaction across your entire practice, and spot any trends that might turn into more serious issues later.
Before you write your survey questions, make sure you know specifically what to ask. If you ask broad questions like “Are you happy with our services?”, you won’t get constructive answers.
Focus your questions on specific areas of the patient experience, such as:
Every response should lead naturally to a next step you can take to address any concerns. If your feedback shows that patients can’t access their health information easily enough, you could resolve this by spreading awareness of your patient portal, for instance.
Decide whether to survey patients about a single experience, or their general impressions over time. Feedback after a single experience can be immediate and specific, but also more extreme – it’s more likely to be very positive or very negative after a good or bad experience.
It can be tempting to try and get more data from your surveys by bombarding your patients with dozens of questions. But the longer your survey drags on, the more likely your patients will give rushed answers. For surveys with over 30 questions, respondents will spend almost half as much time answering each question compared to surveys with fewer than 30 questions. Worse, they might not finish it at all – for surveys that take longer than seven minutes, completion rates can drop by up to 20%.
You’ll get more respondents and better data with a survey that’s concise and to the point. Shorter surveys have higher completion rates. Keep surveys concise and focused to get the most relevant insights.
The key to a successful survey is not just what you ask, but also how you ask it.
Jargon is your enemy – steer clear of acronyms and technical terms. Phrase your questions with plain, precisely worded language that anyone can understand.
Don’t use vague words that patients could misinterpret or might have different meanings to different people. Take the word often, for instance. One patient might consider often to be three times a week, while for another it might be three times a day.
Use closed and open questions carefully. They each have advantages in the right situation.
A closed-ended question has a yes/no answer, or a limited selection of possible answers. For example:
“Did you experience any issues booking your appointment?”
"What age range do you belong to?”
Use closed-ended questions when you have a good idea of what the answer could be. In the examples above, a patient either did or didn’t have an issue booking an appointment, and their age can only be one of a set number of answers.
An open-ended question lets patients give a free-form answer in their own words. For example:
“How can we improve our waiting room experience?”
“What can we do to make your health information more accessible?”
Effective surveys use a blend of question types. If you only used closed-ended questions, you could miss opportunities for patients to articulate their opinion in their own words. However, too many open-ended questions can make the analysis of the results more complex.
There are several different ways you can present a survey question. Here are the three most common formats, with some best practices for approaching each one:
Multiple choice questions are simple to answer and easy to analyse, making them a popular format.
Got several questions that patients can answer with the same set of responses (such as the Likert Scale)? Use matrix tables to group them together for a quicker and easier survey experience.
A text entry box lets patients answer a question in their own words. This is a good option where multiple choice or matrix tables might constrain the data.
A double-barrelled survey question is one question that asks about two different things. For example:
“How would you rate our waiting times and check-in process?”
These questions confuse patients and muddle the data. It isn’t clear which aspect of the question patients are responding to – waiting times, or the check-in process. They might be happy with the check-in process but unhappy with waiting times and chose the ‘fair’ option as an average of both answers. Or they could have only given an answer to the one aspect of the question they felt most strongly about.
It’s easy to fall into this trap, especially when trying to make your survey more concise. But to get the best quality data, it’s better to split double-barrelled questions out into two separate questions. In this case, “How would you rate our waiting times?” and “How would you rate our check-in process?”
Of course, every survey will be different depending on what aspects of the patient experience you want to improve. But this example demonstrates what an effective survey that follows the tips above can look like in practice.
What age range do you belong to?
Please rate the following:
Are you aware of our patient self-service portal?
Would you recommend us to family and friends?
If not, why not?
Is there anything else we can do to improve our services?
Design your surveys to be easy to access and simple to complete. If it isn’t quick and convenient, they won’t bother with it.
Patient satisfaction surveys are integral to delivering healthcare services. They give you a window into the patient experience and show you exactly where it needs to improve.
As we’ve seen, the art of crafting effective surveys is trickier than it might first appear. You need to think about how you deliver your survey, how long it is, what kinds of questions you ask, how you ask them, and more.
If this seems overwhelming, don’t worry. Follow the tips in this guide and use an online survey tool, and you can create perfect patient satisfaction surveys with complete confidence.