Why Patient Satisfaction Surveys are Critical for Service Recorvery

I normally blog from the perspective of an industry expert focused on market research survey software, discussing the multitude of applications, emerging technologies and best practices. Today however I’ll be writing from a more personal point of view. Without a doubt, the industry sector most in need of customer satisfaction feedback tools, methodologies and processes is healthcare. At Opinionmeter, we’ve dedicated ourselves to helping our healthcare customers apply the wide-range of survey technologies now available and healthcare represents the largest vertical for our business, but it seems we’ve just scratched the surface. The majority of healthcare organizations are still in the dark-ages when it comes to customer care and managing patient satisfaction feedback. Let me relay a story I heard just last night – unfortunately, these types of stories are all too prevalent.

A dear friend of mine, who has recently been diagnosed with breast cancer, was scheduled for an MRI. The MRI was necessary prior to meeting with the surgeon to discuss surgical options. Needless to say, anyone in this situation will be in a sensitive, fearful disposition. How much is it to ask that medical staff anticipate and be sensitive to patients state of mind (in this case, the radiology staff)? Is not empathy one of the most basic considerations for a caregiver to provide a patient – especially in these circumstances? I’m sure you can anticipate where this story is going…

My dear friend was first told that her sister, who was there to provide comfort and support, could not be present during the MRI procedure. Additionally, the radiology staff failed to orient her about what to expect during the procedure, which involved lying motionless within the MRI machine for 45 minutes face down on a hard cold surface pressing against her sore breasts (which were sore from recent biopsies). During the MRI procedure, staff did not once communicate with her; ask how she was doing, let her know how much longer the procedure would take, nothing! She was in pain, claustrophobic and in fear. When she emerged from the MRI machine, she told the staff “that was horrible! I would not wish this on my worst enemy, why didn’t you warn me…” The staff’s response was silence. The facility where my friend received this unacceptable, insensitive and in my opinion – incompetent service was the John Muir Medical Center in Walnut Creek – a highly respected healthcare institution! Makes you wonder what’s going on elsewhere, doesn’t it!

To bring this story back within the context of patient satisfaction surveys and the intelligent use of available customer feedback tools and technology – when my friend returned to the waiting room following the procedure, the only feedback method available was a ridiculously designed 5×7” paper feedback card with a scale of 4 smiley faces and a 2-inch space adjacent each of the 6 questions for the patient to input open-ended comments. John Muir is a wealthy, high-tech medical center and they are clearly not investing in patient satisfaction survey technologies that are widely available and proven to be even more cost-effective than paper surveys. For example, if they had a touch screen survey device (this could be a tablet, kiosk, or wall-mounted touch screen device). My friend could have provided her feedback quickly and efficiently at the point-of-care, which then could have triggered a satisfaction alert that would be delivered in real-time to the chain of command responsible for that radiology department. This would have triggered a service-recovery process and would have provided them a chance to intervene and recover a patient as well as avoid the spread of a different kind of cancer – patient dissatisfaction – which believe me, has already metastasized and spread throughout my friend’s family, friends and now this blog. When will healthcare institutions WAKE UP! It’s one thing to provide unacceptable patient care, but to add insult to injury is to not invest in patient satisfaction survey technology that can monitor and manage patient feedback in real-time.

A postscript to the above – the next day when my friend called to request the CD with the MRI images she was told that since she was menstruating at the time (which she disclosed to the staff prior to the procedure), she would need to go through the process all over again!

Advantages to Mixed-Mode Data Collection

Along with mobile research, mixed-mode data collection has become a hot topic within the market research community. Mixed-mode data collection refers to collecting research data in a variety of “modes” or methods. For example, to reach your required population you may need to reach respondents in a variety of ways – both online and onsite.

Online distribution may take the form of online surveys (viewed on a PC) or mobile-web surveys (optimized for mobile browsers), or both. Additional online methods can include mining social media content as well as building survey panels (virtual focus groups). One drawback to online surveys are that you and you population must have an Internet connection to distribute and access the survey.

Onsite surveys on the other hand involve distributing surveys via mobile survey devices – the one exception to this is the traditional paper survey (interviewer with clipboard). However, paper is rapidly being replaced by mobile survey devices such as PDAs, Tablets, iPads, etc. (CAPI – Computer Assisted Personal Interview). There are many advantages to using survey devices and I discuss this in my other blog entries – suffice to say, survey devices provide interviewers with multiple advantages and efficiencies not to mention real-time data and reporting access. One word of caution – when shopping for a mobile research vendor – be sure that the survey app can run offline as well as online – you don’t want your survey to be dependent on an Internet connection to function!

Let’s dig a little deeper into the onsite survey distribution options that are available. We’ve already mentioned the mobile research options for CAPI above. However, with the advent of mobile phone survey apps – there is an entirely new distribution opportunity for market research companies. We can look at this from a B2B and B2C perspective. The B2B mode – where companies use their own mobile devices running mobile a survey app and use the device as a data capture device (it could be an iPhone, iPad, etc.). On the other hand, a business can promote free survey apps for their customers to download and use to participate in feedback. Additionally, touchscreen survey kiosks can be placed at the point-of-sale, point-of-service, point-of-care, depending on the nature of the business and capture spontaneous real-time customer feedback. The advantage to using unattended survey devices like survey kiosks (whether they’re mounted in a kiosk, or on a table-top, wall or aisle) is they require no staff involvement and often can be monitored and maintained remotely.

Certainly there are advantages and disadvantages to each and every modality for capturing survey data, we at Opinionmeter are dedicated to supporting all these methods so that our customers can deploy surveys in a truly mixed-mode environment – “Author Once, Distribute Anywhere”. Among the many advantages to this type of feedback platform is you can create and deploy the same survey to a variety of destinations and also all your survey data resides in one database – whether that data was captured using paper, online, onsite, mobile-web or mobile app.