5 Signs of Effective Patient Satisfaction Surveys

In a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, authors said five factors can make for more effective patient satisfaction surveys.

"We believe that when designed and administered appropriately, patient experience surveys provide robust measures of quality, and our efforts to assess patient experiences should be redoubled," the authors concluded.

Here are five questions for hospital leaders and managers to evaluate their own patient experience surveys.

1. Do survey measures focus on a specific event or visit?
Researchers said that when surveys are focused on a specific hospital visit, "they are consistently correlated with accepted outcome measures, such as mortality and readmission rates." On the other hand, general evaluations or health plan surveys that assess care provide over a long period tend to produce null or opposite results.

2. Do survey measures focus on patient-provider interactions? Patient-provider interactions are a great indicator for overall satisfaction scores, but some interactions are more meaningful than others. Interestingly, researchers found aspects of nursing care and communication with nurses were more predictive of patient experience scores than interactions with physicians. "In the HCAHPS survey, communication with physicians ranked fifth out of eight categories in terms of correlation with overall satisfaction," according to the study.

3. When is the survey administered? Timeliness of patient experience surveys is crucial. The HCAHPS survey is collected after no more than 42 days following the patient's discharge. The longer the time span between the patient's discharge and survey collection, the more vulnerable the measurements are to recall inaccuracies and bias.

4. Are outcomes measures risk-adjusted and closely related to the interaction of interest? A previous study found a negative association between patient experience measures and outcomes, since the average length of time between patients' measured experience and the outcome was 3.9 years. Instead, other studies have shown positive associations between experience and outcome measures when risk was controlled for with use of empirical data and when patients completed the questionnaire during hospitalization or within 30 days of discharge.

5. How is "patient satisfaction" defined? Researchers said of the studies and questionnaires they examined, no survey question used the word "satisfaction." This can create confusion and skepticism over what patient satisfaction actually measures. Thus, the researchers say a "common measure of patients' overall assessment of care — grounded in sound research — would facilitate cross-study comparisons," according to the study.

More Articles on Patient Satisfaction:

3 Quick Tips to Increase Patient Survey Responses
CMS Announces Value-Based Purchasing Winners, Losers
4 Strategies to Improve Patient Satisfaction — and Profitability

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