Using Patient Surveys To Achieve Healthy Doctor-Patient Communication

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Photo Credit:'s MongkolChuewong

Health communication encompasses every facet of interaction that occurs between the patient and clinic staff. It includes direct communication and written material such as brochures, health guides, etc. Surveying patients will help you improve all these aspects. Understanding what problems your patients are having is the first step to becoming a better healthcare provider. Traditional uses of surveys also apply to clinical practices, such as surveying job satisfaction levels, collaboration efforts, and task effectiveness.

Doctors can use surveys to achieve the following health communication goals:

  • Increase awareness and knowledge of prevalent health issues
  • Increase demand for better health services
  • Identify patient misconceptions about healthcare and policies
  • Identify patient needs and concerns
  • Track patient progress

Warning for Healthcare Providers
Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act

Improving Patient Health And Hospital Efficiency Through Surveys

Surveys are ubiquitous in the world of business; companies gather all kinds of data and strategize accordingly. Unfortunately, the healthcare industry hasn’t caught up with the trend. This needs to change because the doctor-patient relationship has a higher stake in the patient’s life. Clinics must embrace the power of surveys and online tools.

George Bernard Shaw

Surveys will open up lines of communication between patients and doctors, ultimately leading to better patient care and clinical efficiency. It’s a win-win situation for both. Better care means your clinical practice will develop a sense of trust with patients and retain your patients for a long time.

Survey Opportunities In Healthcare Management

Let’s explore various survey opportunities available in the healthcare setting. Once the patient has made initial contact by setting up an appointment, a pre-appointment survey will do wonders to help you learn what they will be expecting. You can also survey your patients while they are present in your clinic and compare these results with the pre-appointment surveys. This will help you check the satisfaction levels of the visitor. For example, LEP Fitness uses customer satisfaction surveys to gauge the satisfaction of their clients. Post-appointment surveys are also an important part of the puzzle. Send these out to patients and their caregivers to determine their opinion of your practice.

Here are a few excellent healthcare-focused survey templates you can use, examples include:

  • Hospital Survey
  • Patient Satisfaction
  • Analyzing Physically Challenged Patients
  • Medical Service Satisfaction (for doctors)
  • Patient Satisfaction (Laboratory)
  • Patient Satisfaction with the Medical Facility

Don’t create excessively lengthy surveys, especially during the pre-appointment phase. If you have to administer a lengthy survey, ask the patient if they are interested in giving you more than a few minutes.

1. Pre-Appointment Surveys

Patients often feel like they are entering the doctor’s office a bit blind. In most cases, the doctor also feels the same way, wouldn’t it be great if there were a way to establish rapport beforehand or at minimum determine the patient’s major concerns? Pre-appointment surveys are the tool you are looking for. Have your patients fill out an optional survey before they arrive for their appointment.

Another issue where surveys or online forms can help is digital check-in. A digital form or survey that patients can fill out on a tablet or mobile device lessens the burden of manual data entry. Digital record keeping means less chance of transcription errors and quick access to reliable patient data.

2. Surveys During Consultation

When the patient arrives at the facility, ask them to fill out a short survey along with the regular forms. The data gathered at this stage can be valuable in helping you improve your services.

An additional tactic is to get doctors to note all the instructions they provide to the patient in a HIPAA-compliant form. During a typical examination, the doctor will provide lots of crucial information to the patient; a good portion of it is usually forgotten. Customized notes can be a great help to the patient. The staff can email these notes to the patient along with a post-appointment survey.

3. Post-Appointment Surveys

Companies send out customer satisfaction surveys all the time, doctors can take a page from the business book and send post-appointment surveys to gauge patient satisfaction levels.

A recommended window is within 48 hours of the appointment. Ask basic questions about:

  • How long they had to wait until their examination
  • What they thought about your staff
  • What kind of care they expected and received
  • How effective were the staff’s communication skills
  • Did the patient feel encouraged to ask questions
  • Any improvements or suggestions
  • Overall ratings of satisfaction with the clinic/practice

Importance Of Doctor-Patient Communication: Healthcare Experts Weigh In

“One of the most effective things doctors could do to improve patient-provider communication is to listen.”

Dr. David Blumenthal (@DavidBlumenthal)
Commonwealth Fund (President and CEO)

“When the doctor understands what the patient believes, fears and wants, they can both "get down to business" - the business of healing the body and the mind.”

Dr. Gurpreet Dhaliwal
University of California San Francisco (Associate Professor of Clinical Medicine)
San Francisco VA Medical Center (Staff Physician)

“The most important thing doctors can do to improve their communication is to know their audience - what patients and families are dealing with and need beyond tests, medicines and procedures.”

Dr. Charles Denham (@Charles_Denham)
Texas Medical Institute of Technology (Founder)

“Doctors, medical schools, hospitals, health-care systems need to find ways to foster an environment where everything we do starts with looking in our patients' eyes and really knowing them.”

Dr. Harlan Krumholz (@HMKYale)
Yale School of Medicine (Cardiologist, Harold H. Hines, Jr. Professor of medicine and epidemiology and public health)

“The goal of good communication should be getting the best outcomes for patients. Seen in that light, the key for doctors improving their communication with patients is the quality of their communication with fellow clinicians.”

Leah Binder (@LeahBinder)
Leapfrog Group (President and CEO)

As these views clearly prove, communication is the lifeblood of great healthcare. Whether you are running a small clinic or a major hospital, it’s imperative that doctor-patient communication be made a top priority.

Surveys are a powerful communication tool and can help improve the interpersonal component of doctor-patient relationships. The easiest method to conduct surveys is to use an online survey tools. Online surveys can help you create, distribute, and analyze your surveys. Doctors can use surveys to check the quality of care, effectiveness of health plans, and assess patients’ experiences. Surveys can reflect the performance of your clinic staff and provide valuable feedback for improvement strategies.

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About The Author

Kelvin Stiles is a tech enthusiast and works as a marketing consultant at SurveyCrest – FREE online survey software and publishing tools for academic and business use. He is also an avid blogger and a comic book fanatic.