Patient satisfaction survey

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How to use patient satisfaction survey to improve patient experience?

Patient satisfaction survey is perhaps the most important tool that hospitals have. Unfortunately, most hospitals fail to utilise the patient satisfaction survey data to improve their patient’s experience.

I am confident that the leadership team at hospitals understand that patients can choose any hospital when they decide to visit one. Therefore, it is imperative for a hospital to deliver a great patient experience in order to become a preferred choice for patients. To achieve this position, it is obvious that the hospital needs to get its service right. However, in order for it to stay in that position, a hospital needs to devise a strategy that will aid to sustainably improve the patient experience.

I am working with several leading healthcare brands in India, Africa, and the Middle East to help them set up a system of continuous patient experience improvement. The most vital part of establishing this system is the patient satisfaction survey that hospitals conduct. However, most of them fail to utilise the captured data effectively.

In this article, I will lay out the step-by-step process that I have followed to achieve massive improvements of over 75% in patient satisfaction levels for my clients.

Getting the leadership onboard

The first and foremost step is to get the hospital leadership onboard. Without leadership buy-in, the initiative is bound to either become a department level exercise – to which most other departments won’t put in their hundred percent – or become a one-off, good-to-have project that everybody thinks is important but doesn’t have the time to work on.

I cannot give a sure-fire way of convincing your management. Every management team member would have his/her own agenda. Interestingly, however, when it comes to growing the hospital’s brand, everyone gets aligned. It is therefore important to present a business case that shows how improving patient experience will have a positive impact on the hospital’s brand value. Some starting points to help you build such a business case:

  1. What is the cost of an unhappy patient sharing his/her unhappiness on social media or news media?
  2. Where do you stand in patient satisfaction amongst your competitors?
  3. What is the value of positive word of mouth from happy patients?
  4. What is the overhead of servicing unhappy patients compared to happy patients?

These are just starting points to build a business case. I advice collecting hard data around one or two of these questions and building a hypothesis on the results that can be achieved by improving the patient experience. If you’d like me to assist you in building this business case, reach out to me.

Finally, make sure that you are clear about what it means to say “Yes” to this initiative.

Designing a strategy to improve patient experience

Developing a strategy to improve patient experience requires that the hospital first understands where it stands in its patients’ eyes. Most often than not, hospitals have been rather surprised by the findings from patient satisfaction survey. This happens because often we assume the reason for patients’ dissatisfaction.

In his article, Dr. James Merlino, Chief Experience Officer and Associate Chief of Staff of the Cleveland Clinic Health System, talks about how the hospital staff believed that “waiting time” was the primary reason for patient dissatisfaction. However, when they drilled down into the patient satisfaction survey data, they discovered that the waiting time was least important for patients! Here’s the list of pat/ient issues that the Cleveland Clinic Health System identified as the factors affecting patient satisfaction vs. its importance for patients:

scale of importance for patient satisfaction
Image source: healthcatalyst.com

Once the key reasons for patient dissatisfaction are identified, the next step is to do a Root Cause Analysis (RCA) of each reason before charting a plan of action. In my experience, most organisations skip this step and jump straight away to taking action on the identified problem. The problem with such an approach is that without proper RCA, you might never solve the real cause behind the problems that create unhappy patients. Additionally, by performing RCA you will also uncover areas where you need more data to plan your course of action.

The final step of designing this strategy is to map the required corrective action with the employee responsible for carrying out that action. This would be the most time-consuming step but is the most crucial one. It is the last mile in setting up a system of continuous improvement. Ensure that the following points are considered carefully while designing this map:

  1. Is the employee the right one to take this corrective action?
  2. Does the employee understand how to execute the corrective action?
  3. Is there a training requirement to improve effectiveness of the team in executing the planned corrective action?
  4. Will there be a fall-back employee who would carry out this corrective action in case the primary contact is not available?
  5. Will there be a turnaround time within which the action must be executed and reported?
  6. What would be the review and closure method for the patient concerns acted upon?
  7. In case no action is taken, what would be the escalation path for different types of patient concerns?

I have helped small and large hospitals – from single unit primary care hospital to large multi-unit multi-location hospital chains – in designing this strategy. Through the years, I have also developed a set of simple tools and templates that can be used to design the strategy to improve patient experience by any hospital. If you’d like to use the same, just reach out me.

Setting up an automated patient satisfaction survey system

Remember that our goal is to set up a system of continuous improvement that enhances the patient experience. I believe that anything that is manual and repetitive should be automated. Only through automation will we be able to set up a system that will improve patient experience continuously and effectively.

Using a system like Omoto will enable you to automate the patient satisfaction survey as per the below diagram.

patient satisfaction survey automation flow
Image source: omoto.io

Using the automated patient feedback management system like Omoto, my clients have been able to reduce turnaround time on patient feedback from days to hours! This, of course, has a profound impact on patient experience. Furthermore, with the information being available to the management real-time, they too are better equipped to take necessary decisions to further improve the patient experience. Setting up an automated patient satisfaction survey system will free your employees of the time they spend in manually collecting, collating, analysing, and reporting the patient survey data. A simple system such as this, when set up in tandem with a robust strategy to improve patient experience can start showing results within two to three months of rollout.

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