Last week I was on a webinar for an impressive new practice management system (or at least it was new to me). The software engaged so many important aspects of the needs of modern day practice management—great clinical reporting, impressive pre-certing, and even a robust billing platform that included working denied claims and the watchful eyes of certified coders to help check clinical coding and in-house billing quality.
Lots of these out there, I know. But what really struck me about this one was its interactive potential with patients before and after a visit. The presenter positioned this as a way to deal with patient forms, billing issues, and even made a slight reference to “enhancing social media.”
When I inquired about customer use of this feature, almost every customer example provided fell into one of the first two of these uses. Seems to me that there’s another use that is rarely utilized by physicians: Monitoring and evaluating your presence and effectiveness as a physician or provider.
We’ve all seen patient satisfaction surveys—they are generic, don’t solicit any detail, and usually deal with staff processes or personnel. They all are oriented to scoring that desired “95th percentile.” Frankly, there’s not much difference in what I’ve seen with medical practices and the surveys I get from Volvo after a service visit.
For years I ran an anesthesia company, and we suffered in this area because the hospital, in canvassing satisfaction among patients we treated, only included two questions about the level of service, and was only sent to a small sampling. Clearly, there wasn’t much information coming back to us, and one or two patients could throw us outside the desired “95th.”
I countered. We did our own, twice yearly surveys, via mail and email (copy to patients’ email and home addresses) and used a sample of not less than 100 patients drawn over the prior two month period. At least ten questionnaires were sent for each anesthesia provider. Questions were multiple choice, scale graded (1-5, 5 the best) and there were a couple that directly asked for comment. We routinely pulled a response in excess of 35%, which gave weight to the results.
I could have used the practice management system I was exposed to last week!
But we didn’t stop there. We also sent them to our equally important customers: The surgeons.
Not surprisingly, they responded in quantity, usually with no less than 7 0f 10 answering, sometimes in great detail. They were not afraid to layout their problems (with brutal honesty!!), or let us know when we did a good job.
These surveys were instrumental in helping us review and improve almost every aspect of the way we provided service to our patients and surgeons, and the hospital. They were the backbone of our culture, and paved the way for adjustments thereto. Your mission statement may be something like “to provide extraordinary care to patients”, but without a lot of feedback and constant review, how can you really define and live up to that oft-heard phrase?
There was one other thing these surveys did for us. They protected us from the vagueness of hospital surveys. We routinely shared our results with the hospital, along with our plans to improve deficient areas. And we monitored the latter and especially watched future surveys to see if patients reflected our efforts at those improvements. This was especially critical to our relationships with the surgeons, as you can imagine.
More next time on how important surveys are to new physicians and providers.--Tom Ellis III