We often say that patients are at the top of our organizational chart at Radiation Business Solutions. Nowhere is this more evident than in our own cancer centers – Peninsula Radiation Oncology Center in Soldotna, AK; Southeast Radiation Oncology Center in Juneau, AK; and Northeastern Nevada Radiation Oncology Center in Elko, NV. As we review the results of our fourth quarter Patient Satisfaction Surveys, I am reminded of how valuable direct patient feedback can be.
Most hospitals now use the extensive HCAHPS survey, which measures many aspects of care and has over thirty questions. Individual practices or freestanding cancer centers may choose to use their own survey tool. Our physician partners opted to develop a unique survey that was much shorter than HCAHPS, but still hit on the aspects of care that we feel most accurately measure quality.
If you are considering developing your own patient survey, here are some tips to help you bring more value to the process:
Make sure your questions reflect your mission statement.
Mission statements can act as a north star for your organization, ensuring that your decisions are driving you in the right direction. But have you asked your patients if they see the mission in action? Write your questions to mirror the language; for example, our centers strive to provide “Open, transparent communication,” so we ask our patients if they received “Open, transparent financial counseling.”
Many patients won’t respond honestly if they feel that the physicians and staff are going to be able to identify them from their comments. Our centers hand the surveys directly to patients after their last treatment, along with a self-addressed, stamped envelope. In our case, the surveys come to our corporate office, allowing a further degree of separation, but even if the envelopes come to your center, the mailing process allows for some anonymity. Alternatively, you could offer an online survey.
The process should allow for immediate action when warranted.
This anonymity comes with an important footnote: sometimes patients will share things in a survey that they would never articulate in person. You may find out via survey that there is a serious, or even dangerous, issue at your center that you would otherwise never have heard about. Whether you are collecting the surveys yourself or using an outside vendor, be sure that the person recording the results feels empowered to bring very negative comments to your attention immediately.
Report regularly, and publicly.
Our surveys are tabulated quarterly, and the results are shared throughout our organization. This not only gives us a chance to address issues quickly, but it gives us an opportunity to celebrate the things we are doing right. Blogging and posting the results on social media helps us publicize our story and also helps to keep us accountable (remember that “open, transparent communication” mentioned above?).
Used correctly, a Patient Satisfaction Survey program can be a valuable tool for your practice. I’m proud to say that all three of our centers received excellent results this last quarter, thanks to our team of dedicated physicians and staff! If you have questions or would like to see an example of one of our surveys, feel free to contact us.