Quirks Market Research and Review

Quirks Market Research and Review – June/July 1997

Instant Access Polling Machine Give Hospitals Quick Read on Patient Satisfaction
By Joseph Rydholm

The ongoing patient satisfaction survey has become a staple of the health care industry’s efforts to gather data on provider performance and identify service areas needing improvement. While these surveys provide a valuable historical measure, they often lack immediacy. Patients are asked to rate and remember events that may have occurred weeks or months ago. In addition, unless a more timely method of gauging patient satisfaction is in place, the lag time between survey administration and analysis may cost the organization valuable time that could be used to correct small service problems before they become major issues.

For one health care provider, a way to get immediate feedback from patients is by using an Opinionmeter, a stand-alone polling machine made by Opinionmeter, Inc., Berkeley, Calif. John Maio, manager of diagnostic imaging, Kaiser Permanente Hospital, Oakland, Calif., has used Opinionmeters to gather patient satisfaction of information also for employee surveys. Placing the survey machines in the waiting areas of various departments, Maio has collected patient responses to brief questionnaires about their just-completed visit. “When I saw the Opinionmeter demonstrated, it occurred to me that I could get rich data at the point of service, as opposed to data from a questionnaire that is mailed out to people a long time after their interaction with hospital staff,” Maio says.

“We get six-month-old data from member patient satisfaction surveys that are used across the region, which includes 2.5 million members, spread across 23 different facilities. Well, that’s pretty tough to work on because I don’t know what has happened since the time the survey was taken. With the Opinionmeter, I can get information and try to act on it immediately.”

For example, as part of the center’s New Practice Models customer service effort, Maio met with members of the pediatrics department at the Oakland facility to identify things the staff could do to improve patient satisfaction. “We devised a survey to be administered on the Opinionmeter that had four basic questions: Were the receptionists helpful and courteous? Did the nurses introduce themselves to you? If your appointment ran late, were you kept informed? And, what did you think about your overall visit, using A-needs improvement; B-met my expectations; C-exceeded my expectations,” Maio says.

The short questionnaire was displayed on a panel attached to the Opinionmeter. Respondents used the keypad below it to enter their responses. In two weeks, Maio received 300 responses on one Opinionmeter, 184 on another and 225 on a machine in his own department, which he used as a control to show staffers that the high response numbers weren’t just from kids pressing the machines’ buttons.

(If a patient enters responses outside the range of possible answers, their survey won’t be recorded. In addition, if a respondent doesn’t complete the survey, the responses won’t be saved. “You can also require people to enter their ZIP code or medical record number, for example, so if kids are pressing the buttons, it’s not going to correlate to an active patient and you can just throw that response out,” Maio says.

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