There’s always room for improvement. You’ve undoubtedly heard that phrase multiple times. No one knows for sure who first uttered it, but it applies to numerous areas of life and business — including healthcare.
Even the most highly-skilled physicians and other clinicians aren’t perfect. They’re prone to mistakes just like everyone else. So are their team members.
How do you know, though, exactly where in a physician practice improvements can be made? What’s the best place to get that sort of information? From the patients themselves.
A Measurement of Patient Preferences
Patient satisfaction and engagement lead many discussions on how to achieve value-based care. Some medical groups, however, don’t have accurate and comprehensive ways to measure those things. Therefore, they aren’t able to easily identify what areas can be addressed to increase them.
The answer to this conundrum is patient feedback. Crucial to improving the patient experience and clinical care, it enables medical groups and other healthcare providers to understand what’s expected of them. As the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) explains, getting patient feedback can highlight features of your practice that may cause difficulty for patients and help you identify areas for improvement.
Sounds easy enough, right? Unfortunately, there are some barriers to getting effective patient feedback, from not having enough staff dedicated to the task to fear of damaging the provider-patient relationship. Some feedback isn’t specific enough, not providing enough information on which to act.
When the process of obtaining and analyzing patient feedback is done correctly, though, it can enable you to better understand patient preferences, boost patient satisfaction and engagement, and drive continuous improvement. Thorough and detailed feedback also allows healthcare providers to:
- Maintain effective communication with patients
- Collect real-time patient insights
- Boost patient acquisition and retention
- Increase patient loyalty and referrals
- Proactively address patient complaints
- Identify gaps in care
- More efficiently utilize services
- Achieve and maintain positive scores
- Frame care as person-centered rather than task or outcomes-based
- Increase their online reputation
- Personalize patient experiences
- Identify opportunities for growth
- Improve future patient experiences
- Strengthen staff satisfaction
Methods for Procuring Patient Feedback
A paper questionnaire or phone calls are no longer the only methods for procuring written feedback from patients. Digital health tools like apps and secure two-way text messaging enable healthcare providers to quickly and easily gather real-time input they can use to improve the care experience.
Using more than one method for gathering patient feedback is recommended. Why? Because it improves the quality of the information you receive and allows for outreach through patients’ preferred channels of communication.
For example, patients can complete in-app surveys after checking in for an appointment or making a payment. They can respond to automated surveys sent via email or text message at their convenience through their mobile device while their care experience is still fresh in their mind.
Most healthcare providers employ the Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (CAHPS®) group of surveys, which ask patients to report on the aspects of their experiences that are important to them and for which they are the best. The CAHPS® Clinician & Group Survey (CG-CAHPS) asks patients to report on their experiences with providers and staff in primary care and specialty care settings.
Patient feedback gathering doesn’t have to be formal. You can ask members of your staff to share input from patients, whether it’s in the waiting room, on the way to the exam, or at check-out.
The Popularity of Online Channels
Probably one of the most popular types of feedback is patients posting reviews on review and rating sites online. Approximately 95 percent of patients say online review and rating sites are “somewhat” to “very” reliable. As noted in Kyruus’ 2022 Patient Access Journey Report, quality of online patient ratings and reviews is one of the most important criteria for consumers when selecting a provider.
According to the Kyruus report, nearly 80 percent of consumers who search for care online are looking at two or more sources of online information as they make their care decisions. That’s why it’s a good idea to maintain a strong online presence for your practice. Consider adding feedback forms to your website and/or surveys that pop up when a patient is browsing your site. Also, routinely monitor online review sites such as Yelp or Google.
If your medical group has a social media presence, conduct surveys through those channels. Be sure to regularly monitor them, and react in a timely manner.
Responding to Negative Feedback
Not all the feedback from your patients is going to be favorable. Negative reviews, though, allow you to identify areas for improvement and learn more about your patients’ preferences.
Although you might not like what a patient has to say about you or the medical group in general, don’t dismiss his or her feedback. AHRQ recommends these steps for handling negative feedback:
- Apologize and acknowledge.
- Listen, empathize, and ask open questions.
- Fix the problem quickly and fairly.
- Offer atonement.
- Follow up.
- Remember your promises.
Also, think before responding to negative patient feedback. You don’t want to come across as defensive and scare away potential patients.
Recommendations for Gathering Patient Feedback
Now that you’re better prepared to reach out to your patients to elicit their feedback — positive AND negative — here are some tips for conducting surveys:
- When emailing, make sure you use HIPAA-compliant server hosting and have a signed authorization from the patient stating that you can email them.
- Keep language barriers and reading levels (health literacy) in mind.
- Respond to feedback in a timely manner.
- Create surveys specific to your practice.
- Use the feedback as a learning opportunity.
- Thank patients for their reviews.
- Personalize your response(s).
- Making giving feedback accessible.
- Use the largest sample of patients available.
- Keep your staff well-informed about the process.
- Encourage staff members to report patient experiences.
- Collect demographic data.
- When applicable, target specific patient groups.
- Try to keep the process and results anonymous.
- Keep questions short and simple.
- Include at least one open-ended question.
To learn more about what consumers value when searching for and scheduling care online — including the criteria they say are most important when selecting a provider — download The Many Digital Doors of Patient Access and Engagement, Kyruus’ 6th Annual Patient Access Journey Report.
Also, schedule a meeting with us to find out how our solutions empower medical groups to deliver a tailored, consistent, and convenient patient experience for every specialty, location, provider, and appointment type.