Your patients know which staff person you should “let go.” They know where the stain on the carpet is that “grosses them out.” They are sure they know whether you are overcharging them. In fact, they know exactly the secret to bring your practice wealth and success or destruction and poverty. They know, but, they aren’t telling.
There are lots of reasons. One is that they think you already know. They assume that you have been told the good and the bad of your practice before by other, braver souls. They also firmly believe you would be angry at them if you told them to your face. After all, they LIKE you. They continue to come, right? But, when all is said and done, they haven’t really been ASKED? Right?
Enter the Patient Survey.
If done correctly, a patient survey can take only 15 minutes of your patient’s time and deliver a wealth of good and bad news upon which you can rely to make physical, financial, and personnel changes that can lead you to success or, at least, to avoid future problems. It is true, however, that the WAY that patients are asked for their input can have a great impact upon the reliability of their answers. For this reason, a person who has experience in knowing how to ask non-leading questions and those that are obvious “pats on the back” can be invaluable.
Does EVERY patient need to complete a survey? Certainly not! You only need a statistically reliable number of responses taken in a scientifically reliable way. If the average practice has 2,500 active patients (roughly 1,000 households), by getting 100 surveys completed, the practice can get results that are within 3% of a margin of error.
The ideal survey is NOT via telephone or personal interview although these anecdotal inputs can be useful. The interview itself tends to influence decisions. That is why political organizations are so fond of telephone polls as a way to “push” opinion. Besides, with the advent of cell phones and the ubiquity of answering machines, telephone surveys are actually becoming less reliable.
We have experimented with post-card surveys but found that when the returned samples represented less than 5% of the total sent out, the margin for error become larger than acceptable. Also, people who respond are disproportionately older (and less satisfied) than the average patient.
The solution: an in-office patient survey that can be administered and collected during a single appointment. A professionally prepared research instrument to measure your patients will be just the ticket to have patients tell you what they really think; not just the bad news or just the good news. “Just the facts, Ma’am.”
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