Conducting patient satisfaction surveys can truly serve as a diagnostic tool for your practice and can help identify opportunities for improvement in care, reduce costs, monitor performance of health plans and provide a comparison across healthcare institutions. The goal of patient satisfaction survey is to assess your patient’s perception of the practice.
Why are patient satisfaction surveys important?
By conducting patient satisfaction surveys, first and foremost you will be letting your patients know that their opinion is very important and their feedback will help you provide quality services.
It will help you provide better care and also ensure that the time your patients spend with you is as pleasant as possible
Next, it will help you compete with other healthcare providers and set your standards
It will help measure the overall rating of your medical practice and responsiveness of your staff. It will also help provide rewards and recognition to the staff at practice who are performing well, which in turn will increase the quality of care
It will improve quality of communication of doctors with patients which is a key to patient satisfaction
Gauging patient satisfaction and using the feedback to implement or build on quality improvement initiatives will help demonstrate a commitment to patient-centered care and improve overall medical service experience.
How to create and run patient satisfaction surveys
Step 1: Identify what you want to know
Before you begin creating your patient satisfaction survey, bring your team together and identify potential problem areas in your practice. Are patient wait times too long? Are patients getting enough time with the doctor? Can patients access their health information and get through to the office when they have questions or requests? This is a great opportunity to collaborate with staff members and share insights on how the practice could improve.
The goal of this first step is to make sure your survey is asking relevant questions that are solvable. Asking broadly about satisfaction (“How satisfied are you with our practice?”) doesn’t give you actionable information. Instead, try asking about specific elements of the patient experience, like “How satisfied are you with the length of time you spend waiting to see a doctor?”
Next, you must focus on whether you want to create a generalized survey or single experience survey. A generalized survey will cover all areas such as feedback on office premises, doctor’s visit and will give you a broader perspective, whereas single experience survey will only focus on the specific experience immediately after the patient visit to a doctor
Step 2: Create your survey
- Focus on common areas related to patient satisfaction
- Identify common questions related to patient satisfaction, for eg. Ease of making an appointment, waiting time, physician and staff interaction etc.
- Start creating the survey based on this approach and it will help you give a good foundation to your survey.
- Avoid Binary questions
- Avoid using ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ questions, as these don’t give you an exact result for your question. Instead, consider using multiple options such as “Extremely happy” “Neutral” “Needs Improvement” such options to help you better understand.
- Keep it short and simple – Too many questions and options may lead to no responses at all !
Step 3: Choose a platform to launch your survey
- Software based survey tools – There are several free and paid options for hosting surveys, such as SurveyMonkey, Jotform, and Snap Surveys. Some even offer built-in promotion tools and real-time result charts. Keep in mind that online surveys may be less ideal if your patients don’t have easy access to a computer or a smartphone with internet access.
- Telephonic Surveys – Since mobile phone penetration is around 81% and landline is around 53%, in the USA, phone surveys are a great way to get patients’ feedback. You can conduct them in-house with a staff member or by hiring a research firm to make the calls and run the data for you.
- Email Surveys – whatever you can do via software, you can do via email as well. You or your staff can quite easily email patients with a short list of questions to answer. As the responses do start coming in via email, your staff can collect/gather these information and assign scoring to the questions being asked to all patients.
- Mailed surveys may seem a little old-fashioned, but they’re estimated to be 50% – 150 % cheaper than telephonic surveys.
- Office Premises – Asking patients to fill out a survey at the end of their visit is a great way to get immediate feedback. You can have staff members hand patients the survey form when they’re checking out or place the forms and a collection box in your waiting room.
- Survey Kiosks – Patient satisfaction surveys can be conducted via patient intake kiosks that as well. These digital patient intake kiosks must be located in the main reception area of the practice and should let patients provide feedback using a touchscreen. The kiosk provides a convenient, quick and easy method for patients to give their feedback on service offered by the medical practice.
Step 4: Evaluate the results
If one uses an online option to create surveys, then it is easier to draw results and create charts. In case of telephonic, office or email surveys you have to manually note the results in a spreadsheet and then evaluate the results. It will help you know the areas your practice needs improvement, which in turn will result in providing better quality care to your patients.
Step 5: Make Changes
Next step is to work on the points of improvement. Plan and work on the changes suggested by your patients. Observe for a few months and again conduct a survey. If the outcomes of the service offered, shows positive alignment with patients’ happiness, you are on the right track.
How to send patient satisfaction surveys via SMS (manually)
You can send patient satisfaction surveys using a healthcare CRM, a tool specifically made for reputation management or you can also do this manually. We will show you how to send satisfaction surveys or patient review requests using google sheets, twilio and zapier first.
For this example, we are going to use Carecloud – the process would be very similar for any other EMR as well.
Here are the steps you will follow:
- You will create an account on twilio and zapier.
- Next, you will purchase a phone number from Twilio to send SMS from.
- You will create a google sheet and add patient data to it daily.
- On zapier, you will create a zap that reads each row of data from google sheets and sends an SMS using twilio
- On Carecloud, you will create a report that exports appointments that are marked CHECKED-OUT or BILLED (i.e patient was seen) and set up a schedule for the report to run after the last patient has left for the day (e.g. 5 PM EST)
- You will download the CSV each day and copy that information over to the google sheet you prepared.
Step 1 – create an account (if you don’t already have one)
Head over to zapier and create an account.
Next, create an account with Twilio
Step 2 – purchase a phone number from Twilio
Go to https://www.twilio.com/console/phone-numbers/search and purchase a number that can send SMS and supports voice.
Now that you are set with a phone number from Twilio, you will create a google sheet and add patient data to it daily.
Step 3 – Create a google sheet
Head over to google sheets. Create a new sheet
Create 3 tabs there
Tab 1 = Inbox. This will contain data that you export from your EMR daily (patients seen that day)
Tab 2 = Outbox. This will contain a shorter version of the patient data from the Inbox. This is where Zapier zap will read data from.
Tab 3 = Sent. This will contain all the SMS that you have already sent. You will move data from outbox to this tab daily.
In Outbox and Sent tabs, add these columns
In reality, you probably just need the first name and phone number. We suggest that you add date sent and MRN/chart just so that it is easier for you to keep track of the data.
Next, on zapier, you will create a zap that reads each row of data from google sheets and sends an SMS using twilio
Step 4 – create a zap
Go to zapier and create a new zap.
First, add your google sheets account to Zapier
Next, make sure that you trigger this zap when a new row is created
Next, make sure that you choose the file you created in the previous step and the Outbox tab
Then, test it with some data in Google Sheets – outbox tab
Make sure that you prepend 1 to the actual phone number 1231231234, else Twilio will not know the country code to use to send the SMS to.
You will find this data show up in zapier
In the next step of zapier (DO THIS), choose Twilio and add your account to it.
Next, customize the message you are going to send and test it with the test data that you created in the Outbox tab of the google sheet you prepared.
Send a test SMS to make sure that everything looks OK.
If the SMS link works well, you will see something like this (if you are using google for reviews)
Step 5 – Export patients seen data from your EMR daily
Our example uses Carecloud. In Carecloud, you will create a report that exports appointments that are marked CHECKED-OUT or BILLED (i.e patient was seen) and set up a schedule for the report to run after the last patient has left for the day (e.g. 5 PM EST)
Head over to carecloud and create a report of these two appointment statuses
Now, set it on a schedule like this
Once the report runs, you will start seeing this report show up in the history tab like this
That’s about it. Next step is for you to massage the daily data a little bit to get it in the format you need it in.
When you download the CSV, you will find lots of extra information – you will have to delete most of them
The resulting file will look like this
Your next step is to format the phone numbers so that Twilio can read them.
To do so, just use “Replace” function in the spreadsheet and
- Search for and replace “(“ with “1” so that a number like (123) 123-1234 becomes 1123) 123-1234
- Search for and replace “) “ with “” so that the number 1123) 123-1234 becomes 1123123-1234
- Search for and replace “-“ with “” so that the number 1123123-1234 becomes 11231231234. This is a number with the country code that Twilio can send SMS to.
If you send the patient an SMS like Hello “FIRST NAME LAST NAME”, it sounds quite fake and robotic.. You don’t talk to patients like that, do you?
It is better to send an SMS as Hello “First Name”.
Next step is to split the full name into first name and last name. First add a few columns next to the name column. This is because the full name might have several words with spaces (e.g. “MARTINA DEAZA DE MATOS”.
Then, use the spreadsheet Text to columns function to split the name text.
You will end up with a spreadsheet like this
You are almost there. At this point, just delete the name columns OTHER than the first name column. So, you end up with a sheet like this
You can still do better. It is awkward to send an SMS with the patient name in ALL CAPS.
To achieve this, all you have to do is to use the function =PROPER(A2) (where A2 is the cell you are attempting to change. Once you do this, you will end up with a spreadsheet like this
That’s a lot better. Now, all you have to do (in the INBOX tab – not the outbox tab)
- Copy the appt date to the Date sent column in your google sheet
- Copy the proper patient first name to your google spreadsheet first name column
- Copy the phone number to the google sheet phone column
- Copy the chart number to the google sheet chart column.
The reason we ask you that you do this in the INBOX tab is that you have more control over it and ONLY after you are 100% sure of all the data, you should copy this over to the outbox tab of your google sheet.
As soon as you copy over this data to the Outbox tab, Zapier will pick up the new row(s) added, connect with Twilio and send and SMS to each one of your patients.
Rinse, repeat daily
You will download the CSV each day, perform the steps above and copy that information over to the google sheet you prepared.
You are all set to receive patient satisfaction surveys / patient reviews daily!
In the game of patient reviews, slow and steady wins the race.