Five ways to improve patient satisfaction surveys

Patient satisfaction is a metric that has vast financial implications for hospitals. For example, happy patients are 74% more likely to pay their bills in full, versus 33% of less satisfied patients.

Unfortunately, current hospital survey methods do not accurately gauge patient satisfaction. Many hospitals rely on HCAHPS surveys, but these are typically conducted months after a medical service was delivered. This delay confuses patients, who often are unclear on what survey is connected to what service. Additionally, responders inject bias into the survey, as their motivation to respond is due to a particularly poor (or extremely positive) experience. A better system is one designed after retail and ecommerce best practices that instantly surveys patients at the point of transaction.

Gundersen Health System (GHS), a five-hospital integrated health network that treats more than 1 million patients across Wisconsin, Iowa, and Minnesota, deployed a real-time patient survey and achieved great results. By mimicking a retail-style real-time survey process to gauge the effectiveness of its patient financial experience, Gundersen was able to capture feedback from over 20% of its patient base, or approximately 4-5X the response rate of the average provider. Based on their survey responses, patients responded well to the system, but perhaps even more significant, was our ability to quickly resolve situations that led to poor satisfaction scores.

Sticking to five tactics helped us to successfully adopt, implement and improve our real-time surveys:

1. Team Alignment and Group Strategy
It's essential to not only select the right members of your "steering committee", but also to ensure that project objectives (or core values) and milestones are agreed upon in advance. Our team took this approach and it prevented most, if not all, of the hurdles that are to be expected when working across departments. In our case, we were able to implement a complete patient financial experience across 36 locations in less than five months.

2. Compatible Solution
We decided early on that we wanted a solution to transform our patient's financial and feedback experience, but would not sacrifice compatibility with our EHR, Epic. In the case of the solution we chose, it included features like Single Sign On (SSO) and "Guest" experience, which meant our patients could utilize their patient portal credentials or pay their bill with a secure "login-free" experience. Either way, their experience would be seamless in and out of their patient portal.

3. Mobile First
With so many of our patients using their mobile phones to check text appointment alerts, message their doctors and even pay bills, our survey experience had to not only be mobile friendly, but inherently designed for a mobile first experience. Our survey was responsive, meaning that it would be viewed optimally on ANY screen. This not only removed hurdles for patients to respond to a survey, but also communicated our commitment to staying attuned to the technologies our patients utilize the most.

4. Real Time Resolutions
Real time patient feedback meant that we would have to be prepared to resolve patient issues real-time as well. When we initially aligned on our core project strategy, we realized that back-office would have to stay committed to this principle. Luckily our platform reduced patient issues, but if and when they do come up, we are able to respond quickly.

5. Gauge Outcomes
We didn't want to be in the dark on the effectiveness of our survey (and patient financial experience). We kept a close eye on metrics, or key performance indicators (KPIs), that we determined in advance were going to inform how well our solution worked. While our primary goal was to gauge patient satisfaction, and our 78% patient satisfaction score told us that our patient financial experience was doing right by our customer, we also wanted to track other correlated outcomes like a drop in incoming calls and lower utilization of back office staff for payment issues. We saw a significant impact on both (50% and the reallocation of FTE staff to higher value tasks, respectively). Though in the short term, our implementation was a success, we will continue to gauge patient satisfaction and other complimentary KPIs.

About The Author

Laurie Hurwitz, MBA, FHFMA, CRCR, is the Executive Director, Revenue Cycle at Gundersen Health System. Laurie joined Gundersen in October 2012. As the executive director of revenue cycle, her primary responsibilities include oversight of all patient financial interactions throughout the system, negotiation of system managed care contracts, and regulatory system cost reporting to government payers. Laurie holds a Bachelors Degree and MBA from Davenport University.

The views, opinions and positions expressed within these guest posts are those of the author alone and do not represent those of Becker's Hospital Review/Becker's Healthcare. The accuracy, completeness and validity of any statements made within this article are not guaranteed. We accept no liability for any errors, omissions or representations. The copyright of this content belongs to the author and any liability with regards to infringement of intellectual property rights remains with them.​

 

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