5 Ways to Make Patient Satisfaction Surveys Work for Surgery Centers
Here are five ways to improve patient satisfaction monitoring at ambulatory surgery centers.
1. Understand the value of patient satisfaction. The shift from fee-for-service-based care to value-based care is truly making patients the healthcare industry's number one priority. Patient satisfaction forms are an inexpensive and invaluable tool for surgery center leaders to gauge their center's performance and make improvements where needed. "Patient satisfaction surveys provide a patient's perspective on how we are performing individually and as a facility. If we don’t know what our customers expect or need, then how can we provide a service that is beyond their expectations?" says Kathy Kelly, RN, MSN, CNOR, administrator of Viewmont Surgery Center in Hickory, N.C.
While surgery center leaders may be confident that their ASCs are performing at the highest level possible, it is often difficult to step into the patient's shoes. "Surveys allow us at the center to see ourselves from a different vantage point," says Karen Howey, CEO and administrator of Macomb (Mich.) Township ASC. There is no better way to determine how positive or negative patients' experiences are than to ask them.
Patient satisfaction is a critical element of a surgery center's reputation. Though referring physicians will be there to send cases to the center, the high – or low – opinion of a patient is just as important to consider. "It is important to let prospective patients know what the results are. A high patient satisfaction rate can attract new patients," says Keith Smith, MD, administrator of Surgery Center of Oklahoma. On the other hand, low patient satisfaction will serve as a deterrent for future cases. The better the grasp surgery center leaders have on their ASC's performance, the more they can put patient satisfaction to work for the improvement of their center's business.
2. Include constructive questions. Patient satisfaction surveys should be well-crafted if they are to be effective. "Choose questions that elicit constructive comments. Focus on the negative things; that is how we get better," says Dr. Smith. It is wonderful for morale to receive positive feedback. This shows areas where a surgery center should continue to shine, but a patient satisfaction survey that avoids questions that invite criticism is not doing its job.
The survey should address the entire patient experience. "Questions should address all areas that the patient will encounter before, during and after their visit to the center," says Ms. Howey. Use surveys as a way to create an entire picture of the patient experience. Looking at the whole picture allows surgery center leaders to easily identify areas that need to be improved.
"The one question that ties everything into one is 'Would you recommend this facility to others,'" says Ms. Kelly.
3. Encourage patients to fill out the surveys. Many surgery centers have a pile of patient satisfaction surveys in the reception area and go no further. Surgery center leaders need to make sure that their staff are informing patients about the surveys and making it easy for them to fill out and return the forms. "We encourage our patients to complete the survey by introducing them to it at registration and notifying them that they will be receiving a survey to let us know how we are meeting their needs as a provider. We are able to send the survey online so the patients can log in and complete the survey in a few minutes. We also are able to mail a copy of the survey if the patient does not provide an email address," says Ms. Kelly.
Find the way to encourage the completion of the surveys that works best for each unique patient population. "We encourage our patients to fill out surveys by utilizing technology. We have contacted Voyance to help us deliver these surveys by email making it as easy and accessible as possible for the patients," says Ms. Howey.
Whether electronic or paper, patient satisfaction surveys should ultimately be a simple way for patients to share their experience with surgery center leaders. "When patients leave the facility with their discharge information, the survey and a stamped and addressed return envelope is included," says Dr. Smith. If the process is streamlined, patients will be more likely to return the surveys.
4. Share the results. Sharing the survey results with ASC staff and physicians is one of the best ways to ensure that patient need translates into action at the center. "We will take these comments, good or bad, directly to the providers and let them see how their patients view them," says Ms. Howey. "We will go over good and bad comments. It is important to show the staff what they are doing well as well as the areas that need improvement. Again if an issue is addressed that the organization feels needs stronger focus we will open a performance improvement project and assign a group to investigate," says Ms. Howey.
Surgery center leaders should then hold staff and physicians accountable for working to improve areas that patients have indicated in their survey response. "Recently I have begun handing out the surveys to the staff members at our monthly staff meetings. This allows each individual to assume responsibility and ownership for their own practice and care, while recognizing those mentioned by name," says Ms. Kelly.
At Surgery Center of Oklahoma, Dr. Smith and the director of nursing read patient satisfaction surveys once a month. They both ensure that any changes that need to be made become facility-wide policies.
5. Always look to improve. Patient satisfaction, like any improvement initiative at a surgery center, is an ongoing process. Surgery center leaders should regularly revisit patient satisfaction surveys. Are the questions resulting in constructive responses? Are enough patients filling out and returning the forms? Is everyone at the center taking the responses seriously? "This should be an ongoing process that is looked at daily by administration and reported to the staff to guarantee quality assurance and performance improvement," says Ms. Kelly.
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