How Doctors Can Use Surveys to Improve Healthcare

June 21, 2016

One of the most important business relationships is that between doctor and patient.
Like any relationship, it’s important to establish open lines of communication and trust with one another. Patients must feel comfortable coming to their doctors with their questions, while doctors need to feel confident that their patients are listening.

When the average visit to a doctor’s office lasts just 12 minutes, it’s no wonder that 40% of patients surveyed feel rushed! And the feeling of being rushed can leave patients feeling unsatisfied and confused about what is best for their health.

Improvements in patient-doctor communication can only improve the efficiency and effectiveness of appointments. Studies also show that good communication can also result in improved health for the patients, the ultimate goal of any doctor’s office.

In this post, we will explore how surveys can help connect doctors and patients while improving both patient happiness and health. Find out how.

What Doctors Can Learn From Businesses

It’s time for doctors offices to take a cue from the business world.

Businesses know that the best way to improve their services and ensure customer happiness is to ask customers for their input.

Using surveys, business owners are able to touch base with their customers, opening a line of communication that would otherwise be difficult or impossible to maintain. Often, business owners are able to identify pain points in the customer process before they escalate into revenue-sapping problems.

Medical professionals can use surveys in much the same way –- and with just as much success.

By leveraging the power of surveys, doctors and patients can improve the lines of communication, increasing the effectiveness and efficiency of each visit, and improving patient happiness.

All of these factors positively effect patient retention, which in turn allows doctors and patients to work better together over the long term.

There are a number of opportunities to connect with your patients with surveys before, during, and after their next appointment. Experiment with each one to see what works best for you and your patients.

Increase Efficiency With Pre-Appointment Surveys

With the proliferation of online resources and personal electronics, patients come to their appointments armed with more information (both accurate and inaccurate) than ever before.

When visiting their doctor to seek treatment for a particular ailment, 39% of patients have already checked their symptoms against online sites like WebMD.

20% bring data from personal monitoring devices, like fitness trackers and heart rate monitors.

This kind of information isn’t just good-to-know for athletes in the midst of training. It’s already helped save at least one man’s life by identifying the underlying cause of his seizure.

In part because of the increased access to health resources, 68% of patients now bring a list of questions to their appointment. These questions range from the current illness they’re experiencing to more general questions related to diet and exercise.

It can feel like both patients and doctors are entering the examination room a little blind. Neither quite knows what the other needs. Wouldn’t it be nice to know what your patients are going to ask before they arrive?

The Power of Asking in Advance

An optional pre-appointment survey, with all data collected and stored through HIPAA compliant means, gives patients the opportunity to let doctors know what questions or concerns they may have.

A patient may, for example, have questions about how best to manage a food sensitivity or intolerance.

Another patient may be coming in to get treatment for a sore throat but also have a less time sensitive (yet equally important) question about their mental health.

Armed with this information, the doctor is prepared even before the patient arrives in the office.

If a particular question or concern stands out, doctors have time to react and prepare, allowing for more efficient, productive time face-to-face.

Post-Appointment Patient Satisfaction Surveys

You’ve heard of companies conducting customer satisfaction surveys, but have you ever heard of a doctor’s office surveying their patients to gauge their happiness?

If the answer is no, it’s time for a change.

Find out what your patients really think. Send a survey after they visit you in your office, clinic, or hospital visit.

Sending a survey within 48 hours of the visit (depending, of course, on how much recovery time your patient needs), allows for more accurate feedback.

Topics to consider asking patients include:

  • Wait time/promptness of service
  • Care provided
  • Impressions of staff
  • Perceived ease or difficulty of communication
  • Overall patient satisfaction
  • Anything that could be improved
  • Chances of referring others to your practice

While there are many topics that could be covered in a post-appointment survey, for the best response rates, keep them short, sweet, and focused.

Patients, busy with their daily lives even when healthy, are more likely to fill out a patient feedback survey if it’s short. We recommend designing yours to be completed in 5 minutes or less.

Other Ways Surveys Can Help in the Doctor’s Office

97% of patients are comfortable with technology having a greater presence in the examining room.

This doesn’t mean new blood pressure measurement equipment.

Instead, patients are more and more at ease with a doctor using a laptop, tablet, or even smartphone while speaking with the patient.

Greater patient comfort with technology means doctors have more options available to them for improving processes.

Streamline Check in With Digital Forms

As more and more records are kept in a digital format, surveys can lighten the load for offices looking to digitize data without incurring unnecessary data entry costs.

Some offices have already moved their patient check-in forms to a digital format, which provide a quick update for doctors on a patient’s changing lifestyle and medical needs.

In these offices, patients check in using a tablet instead of filling out pages of forms.

A big benefit of moving toward a digital survey format is the fact that a patient’s handwriting is often as difficult to read as their doctor’s.

Digital-first prevents any transcription errors and makes the information immediately available and legible for doctors and health care staff.

Surveys and Forms in the Examination Room

Carrying a tablet into the examination room isn’t just a convenient way for doctors to take notes. It can be a powerful tactic for patients, too.

I’m sure everyone has had the experience of a doctor giving precise instructions for which vitamins to buy or which exercises to do.

But then you get in the car, drive home, and start thinking about other things. By the time you’re at the pharmacy, you may not remember exactly how much of which brand of vitamins at what frequency your doctor has recommended.

Filling out a custom, HIPAA-compliant survey during the appointment can make it easier than ever for doctors to send instructions or summaries to their patients.

Getting detailed follow-up information like this is integral for patients and doctors alike, helping ensure that patients are able to follow doctor recommendations to the T.

Tracking Healthcare Success with Surveys

Surveys in the doctor’s office are an increasingly popular way for patients and doctors to communicate their needs to one another, especially as rising healthcare costs make patients more concerned with maximizing their time while minimizing expense.

By offering regular surveys, doctors are able to measure their own effectiveness, use data to improve their practice, and better serve their patients.

Patients will enjoy the benefits of improved communication, increasing trust and the feeling of being heard and understood. This, in turn, will increase their satisfaction and rate of retention with their particular doctor.

While patient satisfaction and retention is important, health is the number one priority.

With surveys, doctors and patients can work together toward the common goal of improved health and wellbeing.

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