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What is a patient satisfaction survey?

Last updated

29 April 2023

Reviewed by

Tanya Williams

Patient satisfaction is integral to the health and recovery of patients as well as healthcare providers' reputation. Providing top-notch, optimal health care has been a longstanding goal for healthcare providers.

While this focus isn't new, the recent emphasis on patient-centered and value-based care depicts the importance of patient satisfaction. Gauging and measuring patient satisfaction concerning healthcare quality can help medical institutions gather valuable data and information. They can then use the data to design quality improvement (QI) initiatives. 

One of the common ways of measuring patient satisfaction is via a patient satisfaction survey. A patient satisfaction survey helps medical institutions to assess basic metrics via patient care and comprehend the level of care they present. This article discusses the importance of a patient satisfaction survey. 

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What is patient satisfaction?

Patient satisfaction is the measure of how happy patients are with the services they receive from healthcare providers. It’s a commonly used indicator to measure healthcare quality. It measures how satisfied patients are with their healthcare. 

Patient satisfaction is highly subjective and dependent on individual patients' perceptions relative to their expectations. As such, it can be hard to define and measure due to the individual quality of patient satisfaction. 

Patient satisfaction isn't directly observable. As such, medical institutions and researchers use patient satisfaction surveys as a common measuring device. 

What is a patient satisfaction survey?

A patient satisfaction survey is a tool used to collect patient feedback after a healthcare encounter. The main purpose of a patient satisfaction survey after such encounters is to gauge their satisfaction levels with the care and quality of the healthcare service provider. 

A patient satisfaction survey provides qualitative and quantitative measurements of patients' interactions with healthcare providers. Medical institutions and healthcare service providers can use patient satisfaction surveys for multiple reasons, such as to identify potential pitfalls in their service provision. 

Why use patient satisfaction surveys?

Patient satisfaction surveys have been primarily used to improve the quality of healthcare services ever since the relationship between patients and healthcare providers was first examined. Below are additional uses for patient satisfaction surveys:

Map and track patients' journeys

As a healthcare institution, you can conduct patient satisfaction surveys at different aspects of their journey to ensure effective patient care at every important interaction point with your staff. This way, you can track the steps where patient satisfaction is low and rectify them.

Report ill-treatment by staff members

Patient satisfaction surveys promote transparency by providing patients with an avenue to mention or discuss instances of mistreatment from the hospital staff. By bringing it to the management's notice, the management can implement further steps to avoid such cases from happening again.

Gather data about patient loyalty

Survey questions such as "how likely would you be to recommend us to your friend or colleague?" can help you understand how loyal your patients are to you. Satisfied patients are more likely to recommend your services to others due to the increased sense of trust and loyalty. 

Key metrics you can measure using patient satisfaction surveys include:

  • Quality of medical care

  • Accessibility of healthcare

  • Access to doctors and other hospital staff

  • Financial aspects of care

  • Hygiene levels

  • Professionalism and interpersonal skills displayed by the staff

  • Transparency and communication between patients and medical staff

How can you create a patient satisfaction survey?

Follow these steps to create a reliable patient satisfaction questionnaire for your research purposes:

1. Identify what you need to know

This ensures that patients' answers to your questions are relevant and solvable. You can start by bringing your team together and identifying potential problem areas. For instance, are patients getting enough time with service providers? 

Identifying what you want to know can help you inquire about specific elements of the patient experience. Asking broad questions doesn't often result in actionable information or answers.

2. Create your survey

Below are general tips to factor in when designing a patient satisfaction survey:

  • Avoid binary questions, such as those needing a "yes" or "no" answer. It can be hard to draw actionable information from such. Consider using an answer scale with different options (like very satisfied/somewhat satisfied/neutral/somewhat dissatisfied/very dissatisfied). In most cases, you can consider removing the "neutral" answer to obtain a more accurate sense of patient satisfaction and opinion.

  • Focus your questions on common areas relating to patient satisfaction. The common areas for patient satisfaction surveys to cover include staff interactions, ease of communication, and access to care. While questions may vary, covering such topics will give you a solid foundation for your patient satisfaction survey.

  • Keep the survey short. Keep your patient satisfaction survey to seven questions or fewer for the best results. A detailed yet short survey shows patients that you value their time. It also limits you to the best and most relevant questions. 

3. Choose a platform to launch the survey

Common methods for collecting patient satisfaction survey responses include:

Online

Online survey hosting platforms can be free or premium, with a popular option being SurveyMonkey. However, note that online surveys may not always be recommendable if your patients can't access the internet. 

Phone

The vast majority of Americans (about 97% of the total population) own some kind of cell phone. As such, phone surveys are a great way to administer patient surveys. You can conduct the phone patient surveys in-house or outsource to another firm to make the calls and run the data on your behalf.

In-house

Prompting patients to fill out a patient satisfaction survey at the end of their visit can be an effective way to get immediate patient feedback

Snail mail

Despite seeming old-fashioned, mail surveys are cheaper than phone surveys yet almost as effective. Ensure you use pre-stamped envelopes to make it easy for patients to mail back the responses. 

To increase the chances of patients participating, you can incentivize them by offering prizes at the end of surveys. As another motivator, explain in your message what will be done with the information provided. Being specific can be a strong motivator, making it more personal and relatable to the participants rather than the usual ‘to improve’.

4. Evaluate the results

Survey results are key sources of data and information. If you're using online surveys, results will most likely be downloadable from your survey hosting platform. 

Regardless of how you get your survey results, you want to input the results in an easy-to-evaluate format, whether spreadsheets, graphs, etc. Next, engage your team in a discussion concerning the patient satisfaction survey results. 

From your discussions, you can brainstorm possible modifications to address your patients' concerns. Note that if patient feedback directly points out the behavior of certain staff members, you may want to handle the matter more privately and sensitively. 

However, before implementing these changes, ensure at least 10% of your patient population has responded. Doing so helps you avoid the risk of taking action on bad data. In addition, your survey results may not be statistically significant. 

5. Make changes

Once you've evaluated the results, it's time to move forward and implement the changes. Partner with your staff to create a list of changes to make and realistic timelines to implement them. After making and implementing the changes, consider running another survey later to ask participants if things have improved.

Sample patient satisfaction survey questions

Your patient satisfaction survey questions should cover important aspects if you want to collect effective feedback. Ensure you customize questions to the precise medical care type or service you provide. 

Common survey questions for different medical care types include:

Hospitals

  • How would you rate the investigative diagnosis process that you underwent?

  • How often did you receive conflicting information from varying medical care professionals at this hospital?

  • What is the difference in the care provided by the hospitals in your area?

  • Were your coinsurances and copayments split correctly between Medicaid and Medicare by the hospital?

Primary care providers

  • Can your primary healthcare provider conduct a fast diagnosis and prescribe the right medication?

Secondary care providers

  • Were the ambulatory staff swift to respond to your medical care request?

  • In one year, how often do you visit a dentist?

  • Did the pharmacy staff bill your health provider and collect the right deductible from you?

Specialized medical care

  • Did the psychiatrist diagnose your condition correctly and provide timely counseling?

  • Were the staff professional and sensitive towards your addiction?

  • Did the birth home provide reliable post-natal care?

HIPAA compliance for patient satisfaction surveys

Under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), hospitals may conduct quality assessments and improvement activities as part of the institution's healthcare operations. Patient satisfaction surveys would be quality assessments and improvement activities, thus considered healthcare operations.

However, before using these operations, the healthcare provider must state in its notice of information practices that it may utilize identifiable information for its healthcare operations. If a patient requests "confidential information" to protect their data and privacy, the hospital must accommodate such reasonable requests. 

In addition, hospitals may hire vendors to carry out these surveys on behalf of the hospitals according to an agreement under HIPAA to ensure compliance. 

Many hospitals and healthcare providers are leveraging data from patient satisfaction surveys to make meaningful and substantive changes. Such changes may include reducing hospital noise levels, improving communication, reducing any downtime, improving responsiveness, improving medical clinic fitouts, etc. 

Since these changes are the results of patient satisfaction surveys, implementing them in their entirety can help improve patient satisfaction levels.

FAQs

What is the 5-point satisfaction survey scale?

The 5-point Likert scale comprises five answer questions. They contain two extreme poles and a neutral choice linked with intermediate answer options. 

A popular 5-point Likert scale to gauge satisfaction is Very satisfied, Satisfied, Neither satisfied nor dissatisfied, Dissatisfied, and Very dissatisfied.

What questionnaire assesses patient satisfaction in nursing care?

The Patient Satisfaction with Nursing Care Quality Questionnaire (PSNCQQ) is used to assess patient satisfaction in nursing care. 

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