Commentary and Ideas on how to make the most of Patient Surveys within your Healthcare Organization

Improving Your Patient Experience in 3 Easy Steps

Improving Your Patient Experience in 3 Easy Steps

OK, it’s a bold title. But also a statement about remembering that improving, even on a large scale, need not be overly complicated. Let’s consider our three step approach. We’ll start with a review.

No healthcare provider reading this will dispute the importance of delivering high-quality care for their patients. It’s the goal, the mission, of every good facility out there. These days, the complete patient experience is top-of-mind for most healthcare providers, not to mention the resident Chief Experience Officers who remain laser-focused on measuring and improving experience scores.

And it’s top-of-mind for good reason, patient experience is becoming increasingly tied to a facility’s success and—in many cases—funding. The overall ratings given to an institution can dramatically impact their ability to compete in the healthcare market. And as more care choices are provided to the consumers, competition increases which places more emphasis on delivering a good patient experience.

With rising importance placed on this issue, it’s no surprise that many organizations are implementing ongoing projects to monitor and improve their patient experience evaluations—even during the critical span between formal evaluations like CAHPS. These types of well-structured, continuous projects ideally result in a gradual culture change that permeates every corner of a facility, affects all staff, and drives toward consistently high ratings from their patients.


Step #1: Understand Your Patients’ Top Priorities
(They’re Not Always What You Might Think)

When organizations first embark on improvement projects, a surprising number of them report a disconnect among their caregivers’ perceptions of what their patients most value during their experience and what they actually value. Often, what patients value is not what the caregiver staff expect.

When asked, caregivers initially tend to think that patients react to more tactile issues, the mechanics of the visit—things like wait times, office and waiting area cleanliness, the patients’ physical comfort levels (like waiting area seating), and privacy levels around handling information like insurance, medical history and payments.

In actuality, those issues are closer to the bottom of the scale. What most organizations report is a priority on more personal issues, the basics of interacting with the entire staff—the human to human interaction. Four of the top items most reported as having high value to patients are below. How would your organization rate across these key issues?

1. Communication
The subject matter expertise difference between doctors and patients makes clear communication a must-have for patients who don’t understand (let alone have the ability to accurately record) the fast litany of medical terms coming at them during a visit. Caregivers must be prepared to be straightforward and clear in talking about all elements including specific medical procedures, what to expect during treatment, condition details, medications, next steps—all ideally supported with hardcopy material, also written for layman consumers.
2. Respect
Many patients feel at a disadvantage, out of their element and slightly uncomfortable, when speaking to a doctor or nurse about their visit details. At the end of the day, they don’t want this perceived disadvantage to equate to disrespect. Caregivers must show courtesy and genuine care and concern for the patient at all times, and not let the medical-education knowledge gap affect the tone of their conversation such that it becomes condescending. All communication must remain on a professional, respectful level at all times.
3. Attentiveness
It’s important that patients feel that they’ve been heard, that the nurses, doctors, technicians, and administration staff are closely listening to the patient and responding directly to what they’re hearing. They must remain in-the-moment and fully-focused on the patient in front of them to ensure the patient that messages are being received at all times.
4. Demeanor
Also under the umbrella of the basic human interaction experience is the overall demeanor and attitude of the caregiver. Patients need to feel that they can approach their doctor with questions and dialogue without feeling like they’re bothering and angering the caregiver. Genuinely being happy, approachable, and focused in the moment is best when attending to patients and translates to a higher comfort level with a more successful exchange.

Of course, there are more issues to add to this simple, starter list. But let’s turn now to talk about taking action.


Step #2: Evaluate Your Own Facility & Test for These Issues

So, what can you do to begin to evaluate your facility’s alignment with these top patient priorities?

1. Experience Your Clinic as a Patient
From the parking lot to the payment window, attempt to see your facility from your patients’ point of view. Watch the level of engagement and interaction. Take note of specific phrasing or body language that represents alignment with the issues listed above.
2. Focus on Activity Goals, Not Just the Tactical Elements
Here we’re talking about the “WHY” answer to what your staff is doing for a patient minute-by-minute. Not simply giving a specific procedure or completing a form, but the overall purpose of the activity. This helps them color their dialogue with the patient toward these larger goals and keeps focus on helping the patient understand its importance.
3. Engender a Culture That Supports Bi-Directional Flow of Communication
All feedback—both good news and bad—serves as source material for improved learning. Staff must feel empowered to share this information upstream and down to more completely educate and inform all involved of important trends, issues, milestones as you focus on improving the patient experience.
4. Get All Staff to Improve
You’re all in this together as a team. Each patient encounters many people during their visit–reception, technicians, nurses, doctors—both those who are directly related to their visit as well as people not related to their specific visit but still walking the halls—other doctors, nurses, even your maintenance staff. All of these interactions can affect your patient’s opinion of his or her overall experience. Everyone should be placing high value on the patient’s minute-by-minute engagement.


Step #3: Create a Feedback Loop to Drive a Patient Experience Improvement Initiative

Arguably the most important element here is to initiate a simple patient experience improvement process and support that process by creating a highly-accurate continuous feedback loop between patients and caregivers at your facility. Accuracy is important here to address the disconnect mentioned above in contrasting what caregivers think is important and what patients think is important.

It is essential to capture patient feedback as quickly and as close to their visit (if not during) as possible. This emphasis on capturing information quickly—nearest the point-of-care—is a core ingredient in driving highly-accurate patient feedback. The shorter the time between care and feedback, the more accurate and honest feedback—and valuable, actionable feedback—you’ll
receive. In fact, according to information technology research firm, Gartner, feedback captured immediately after an interaction is 40% more accurate than feedback captured 24 hours after the event.
Opinionmeter Patient Experience

Fortunately, leading enterprise survey technologies, like Opinionmeter’s Patient Experience Survey Solution make easy work of setting up a Patient Experience Improvement Initiative and capturing feedback right at that point-of-care, from sources that span multiple channels, both online or offline. Patients are engaged over time with surveys to capture key aspects of their experience. This feedback is immediately available to caregivers (often when the patient is still in the building!) in the form of intuitive online analytics, reports and dashboards that enable informed responsive decision-making that, in-turn, helps continually shape the patient experience improvement initiative.

This instantly allows teams to take both short-term and long-term action. Short-term while the patient is still on premise (through real-time service recovery alerts), engaging them to clarify communication about treatment, next steps, etc. Long term in the form of continually nurturing and improving a culture of patient-centric care delivery.

Take a moment at your facility to consider whether your staff is addressing these top issues, and how you can implement changes that improve your patients’ experience.

To learn more about how Opinionmeter’s Patient Experience Survey Solution can play a supporting role in your improvement plans, please contact Opinionmeter at 888.676.3837 or visit And please share this with any of your colleagues who might find it of interest. Thank you.

Measuring Healthcare Patient Satisfaction

Healthcare Patient Satisfaction

How do you as an organization measure healthcare patient satisfaction ? Determining the best method for requires analysis of several important factors such as the healthcare delivery system, staff workflow process and the patient setting. Let’s call these “touch points” moving forward. In this article we will discuss several of the most common healthcare touch points and match them up with state of the art patient satisfaction survey technologies now available.


First we need to define the touch point environments. For example, are you measuring patient satisfaction in an outpatient or inpatient setting? Are healthcare providers capturing real-time bedside feedback while rounding, or do you want to gather feedback at the point-of-care from an outpatient clinic or an exit survey in your pharmacies? Each of these touch points call for unique patient satisfaction measurement tools.


Common Healthcare Touch Points:


Inpatient Feedback: When gathering patient feedback within an inpatient setting, the healthcare provider will most likely want use a mobile survey device or mobile survey app on their own personal mobile device (phone, tablet, iPad, etc.). Popular use cases for inpatient feedback are for rounding (bedside patient feedback) and at discharge. There are a number of options here – from dedicated mobile survey devices to survey apps such as an iOS survey app that can run on an iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch. Whenever selecting a customer survey app, it’s important to make sure the app can run in online and offline modes. By online mode, we mean real-time which is critical for service recovery purposes (allowing healthcare provides to be notified in real-time when there is a service recovery issue); and offline mode meaning that when the device loses Internet connectivity that the survey app continues functioning regardless if Internet connection is lost, and most important that data is not lost but stored on the device until the Internet connection resumes.


Outpatient Feedback: Within the outpatient setting, you have several available feedback options and perhaps a mixture of these solutions should be considered. Mobile survey devices can be a very efficient method of capturing spontaneous patient satisfaction feedback at the point-of-care within the exam room or while checking out with the staff at the front desk. Additionally, survey kiosks (which can be stand, wall or table mounted) can be used in the lobby area or near the exit. Advantages to the survey kiosk are that it requires no staff involvement and is a stand-alone solution. Often, a mixture of the two survey technologies is the best approach – combining survey kiosks with mobile survey devices. When using the survey kiosks or mobile survey devices, your survey can also capture the patient’s email address which then can be used as a follow up survey delivered by email. We refer to this approach as a mixed-mode survey approach.


Real-time Point-of-Care Feedback: the “pain-point” we most commonly hear from healthcare providers is the delay in receiving actionable survey data. This is because there is often a significant delay from the time the patient provided the feedback to when the healthcare provider receives the survey data. This makes it difficult to be responsive to patient requests and impossible when it involves service recovery. The good news for healthcare provides is delayed survey data is no longer necessary.


With the current availability of sophisticated, cost-effective survey technologies, healthcare providers are now able to implement more effective and cost effective patient satisfaction feedback programs.

Patient Satisfaction Surveys – Opinionmeter’s 20 Year Evolution

Check out Opinionmeter’s Patient Satisfaction Survey Software

Over 20 years ago, Opinionmeter introduced the first patient satisfaction surveys using onsite kiosks within the healthcare space. When we introduced these stand alone survey kiosks at hospitals and out-patient facilities our focus was to automate the capture of “point-of-care” healthcare satisfaction. Our product focus at that time was exclusively stand-alone survey kiosks that were placed within out-patient clinics and hospitals to capture spontaneous point-of-care feedback.

Opinionmeter’s ongoing commitment to simplifying and automating patient feedback has led us through quite a journey over the past two decades.

Jumping ahead to the present day, we still supply survey kiosks, but instead of it being limited to a proprietary system, our survey solutions are now device independent. Our survey software has evolved into a cross-platform, mixed-mode approach allowing healthcare management to author patient satisfaction surveys once and distribute it anywhere – as an online, mobile-web, smartphone, tablet or a kiosk survey solution.

iPad Patient Satisfaction Surveys

Our clients are using Opinionmeter’s device independent technology to render their satisfaction surveys on the iPad, iPhone, tablets, online or at a survey kiosk, Our patient satisfaction surveys are now found in the following applications:

  • Rounding – Nurses and Physicians use the iPad or Android survey app to conduct their rounds and rounding surveys at the patient’s bedside.
  • Service recovery – within the in-patient setting, real-time survey technology enables care givers to be notified instantly in real-time when there is a service issue. Opinionmeter’s SurveyManager also has a case management module enabling staff to track the service recovery resolution process within the same Opinionmeter reporting too.
  • Outpatient – Tablets and Survey Kiosks are still being used to collect real-time patient feedback in outpatient clinics or even within the exam room itself.
  • Inpatient – the use of smartphone and tablet survey apps, enable caregivers to easily conduct bedside surveys that are database driven and HIPPA compliant.
  • Employee Training– using the quiz feature, the survey app is a perfect fit for employee training

The next wave of healthcare survey software involves moving the survey app from the healthcare facility’s devices to the patient’s own smartphone or tablet device. Opinionmeter’s new smartphone apps have allowed us to expand our domestic clientele list as well as our global licensee network. Opinionmeter is looking forward to a great 2013 as we continue our journey.


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!