In research, there’s an adage, “that which isn’t measured can’t be improved.” This is certainly the case with a patient satisfaction survey. Integral to improving processes, patient satisfaction surveys help patients communicate critical insights into the care they have received. Higher patient satisfaction correlates with high-quality care and improved outcomes, which are some tenets of value-based care.
While patient satisfaction (and dissatisfaction) is a highly complex and individualized variable, it boils down to this: patients expect outstanding care from caring people. In order to quantify patient satisfaction and factor it into value-based care, payers and providers need a system for measurement. But the truth is, many health care consumers feel unprepared to evaluate such highly technical issues. This is where patient satisfaction survey tools come in.
What Is Patient Satisfaction?
When we talk about patient satisfaction, we are referring to the degree to which the care a patient receives is consistent with the care they expect to receive or their ideal care. Patient expectations are shaped by the products and services that a patient was promised, as well as aspects of health care quality, and health care delivery that patients value when they seek and receive care.
Today’s health care consumers anticipate receiving high-quality care at the best prices possible. Measures such as timely appointments, easy access to information, and good communication with health care professionals all factor into a patient’s level of satisfaction. A satisfying patient encounter also includes professional competence, accurate diagnosis, cutting-edge care, and no avoidable complications that might lengthen the treatment plan or delay recovery.
Patient Satisfaction vs. Patient Experience
Patient experience may refer to the perception of care that is received versus patient satisfaction, which may be influenced by the patient’s expectations. Of the two terms, patient experience (PX) is more encompassing. PX includes a variety of contacts and touchpoints that health care consumers encounter within the health care system. These can include their experiences with insurance companies or health plans, physicians, nurses, and personnel in hospitals, medical practices, and other facilities.
Patient Satisfaction Survey Scores: A Metric for Quality Care
According to the World Health Organization, quality care is “the degree to which health services for individuals and populations increase the likelihood of desired health outcomes.” Since it’s more proactive to measure ongoing events than outcomes, we often use patient satisfaction as a metric for assessing the caliber of medical service.
Indeed, clinical results, patient retention, and medical malpractice lawsuits are all impacted by our ability to deliver on quality. On a patient satisfaction survey, patients equate “high-quality” with care that is prompt, effective, and patient-centered. Thus, patient surveys to gather feedback and assess satisfaction may serve as a stand-in yet very reliable predictor of how well hospitals, doctors, clinics, and behavioral health professionals are meeting value-based standards.
Patient Satisfaction Survey Design and Implementation
A patient satisfaction survey should be thorough and include all areas of the patient's visit. Determine if a patient's expectations were met by asking them to rate the time and attention they received, the convenience of the appointment, and whether they would refer you to others.
Encourage the use of long-form, in-depth replies to see whether there are any shortcomings in your practice that need to be addressed, including:
- Do patients believe providers spend enough time with them?
- Are the providers knowledgeable about the patient’s medical and behavioral health conditions?
- Is it probable that the patient will suggest the physician to relatives or friends?
The more feedback you receive from your survey questions, the easier it will be to make specific changes to how your medical office operates and improve patient satisfaction scores.
What, When, and How to Measure Patient Satisfaction
The notion of surveying is straightforward, but gauging patient satisfaction takes more than simply asking random survey questions. According to experts, the approach must be well thought out, from how you ask questions to how you interpret your patients' responses.
Patient satisfaction surveys are often aimed at the three following areas:
- Health care accessibility
Patient satisfaction includes interactions with staff and providers. Be sure to ask about the courtesy of the receptionist, clinical, and business staff. Ask for specific feedback about care and attention received from clinicians such as nurses, social workers, counselors, and physicians. Ask for the assessment soon after the care is received. Drill down to discover information about the amount and clarity of instructions your patients receive.
Some examples are a 10-point scale or a five-point scale that ranges from "strongly agree" to "strongly disagree." If your patients tend to be indecisive, four-point scales are popular alternatives to force a decisive response.
The number one rule is: Be consistent. The same metrics should be used to answer the majority of questions on a patient satisfaction survey. Don't use a four-point scale for some questions and a five-point scale for others since the findings won't be comparable. Choose your questions carefully to ensure that your survey results provide you with the knowledge you need to take action.
When to Use Open-Ended Questions
For a more detailed critique of the behavioral health services you deliver, include open-ended questions. Open-ended questions allow your patients to freely and openly express the ways in which their experience was satisfying or, most importantly, how it could have been better.
Look for trends to identify the large sweeping areas to target for improvement. It may be helpful to ask for staff feedback at your next team meeting before making any changes.
Examples of some effective open-ended questions would be:
- In your opinion, what is the best thing about our practice?
- Are there any particular things we do well?
- What can we do to make things better?
Although detailed responses are difficult to score, the feedback you receive will bring meaning to some of your satisfaction scores. For instance, you may have a patient satisfaction score of 3 out of 5 on “follow-up” but aren’t able to gain a deeper understanding of that score until you read the verbatim response that some patients haven’t been getting their automated reminders. Being able to read what patients think of you can be very powerful.
Press Ganey, CAHPS, and ContinuumCloud
If you have ever worked in a hospital environment or have been an inpatient at any point over the past 25 years, you probably are familiar with Press Ganey patient satisfaction surveys and scores.
Press Ganey is the largest patient satisfaction and patient experience survey provider in the United States. Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and System, also known as CAHPS or in some cases as HCAHPS, is a widely used health care survey scoring methodology. HCAHPS scores offer valuable insights regarding patient satisfaction.
Press Ganey and CAHPS survey instruments help large health care organizations and patient care providers with patient satisfaction data collection and interpretation. Press Ganey and CAHPS distill survey data into satisfaction scores that can then be used to drive quality improvement initiatives.
In addition to being time-consuming, the problem with these surveys is that they’re not cost-efficient. Fortunately, there’s another methodology for obtaining patient feedback and improving the quality of care. ContinuumCloud’s patient engagement platform, the CaredFor app, can help you capture valuable patient perspectives.
The CaredFor app includes patient satisfaction surveys as well as other self-evaluation tools designed to increase patient engagement and collect feedback. Increased engagement leads to better outcomes, and better satisfaction leads to more referrals.
You can create and deliver patient satisfaction questionnaires to access feedback that will allow your organization to fine-tune and improve the services you offer. Not only is the patient feedback integral for identifying areas for improvements like waiting time, reimbursement directives, and access to care issues, but it also helps to understand your patient’s perception, which is key to delivering a better patient experience.
Deliver Effective Patient Satisfaction Surveys With the CaredFor App
Patient satisfaction is key to a healthy, sustainable practice. Not only are patients more loyal when they feel satisfied, but they’re also more likely to refer others to your practice. Patient satisfaction surveys are also key to helping you know when and where to make improvements so you can deliver quality care and gather patient perspectives to improve the patient experience.
When you need a lightweight, cost-effective patient survey tool that is easy to deploy, look no further than the CaredFor app. ContinuumCloud’s patient engagement platform enables novice users to create and deliver effective and engaging patient satisfaction survey tools.
To learn more ways we can help you improve your patient satisfaction survey results, connect with us today.