Survey Says: It's In
When done well, surveys improve your
practice and bring you closer to patients.
THE EXECUTIVE EDITOR, Jim Thomas
You can't travel too far these days without
running into a customer satisfaction survey. Interviewers chase consumers in
shopping malls, reply cards come with virtually every new appliance and service
companies (e.g., utilities, car repairs, etc.) follow up after appointments with
phone calls. Yet judging from anecdotal evidence, it appears that many
healthcare providers don't poll patients (with the exception of managed care
From concept to execution
The survey concept -- to find out what the
patient wants most, deliver it and reap the rewards -- is sound, although many
surveys wilt in the execution. Having worked with numerous research
professionals, I can offer this advice regarding surveys:
► It's what you don't know that's
important. Many firms use surveys to reinforce what they already know. (If a
practice has patients that regularly wait 45 minutes, does it need a survey to
discover that it needs to see patients faster?) These firms use surveys as a
crutch to justify action.
Worse, because they look for specific answers,
these firms miss opportunities suggested by other survey responses. Keep an open
► Make the survey easy for patients.
Most surveys arrive at bad times. A restaurant survey comes with your check,
just as you're about to leave the restaurant. A telephone interviewer interrupts
weekend activities at home. How valuable is information when it's collected
under these conditions?
One solution is to first ask patients if your
practice can solicit their feedback. Explain your reasons.
If the survey is in the form of a written
questionnaire, offer patients the option of taking it home rather than filling
out in the office where they may feel rushed or pressured. If you plan a phone
interview, ask the patient for a convenient time to call. By making the process
convenient, it's one more way patients will appreciate your practice.
► Use patient surveys as a foundation
for improvement. Some use surveys for advertising, as in, "Four out of
five buyers say they will buy their next car from Lemon Motors." Others use
surveys to point the finger or give praise. These uses aren't necessarily wrong,
as long as they don't compromise the process of continuous improvement.
A cycle of improvement
A Surveys aren't a one-shot deal. Survey results
suggest action. Once action is taken, the practice should measure effectiveness
through a survey. These new survey results suggest action. And so on and so on.
Optometric Management, Issue: September 2003