Online surveys significantly increase patient feedback rate over paper, speaker says

November 8, 2014

HIPAA-compliant online surveys are convenient, and the results help Todd Schlesinger, M.D., F.A.A.D., of the Dermatology & Laser Center of Charleston, identify areas that need improvement. Positive comments can be used as testimonials and increase the awareness of the services his practice offers, he told attendees at this weekend's 2014 Annual Meeting of the American Society of Dermatologic Surgery.

A South Carolina dermatology practice now gets feedback from 100-150 patients a month instead of the usual 1 or 2 thanks to a switch from paper to online survey forms, a physician told the 2014 Annual Meeting of the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery.

READ: More coverage on the 2014 ASDS Annual Meeting

The practice uses the results of the surveys to indicate areas that need improvement and, when patients are positive, as testimonials. “Negative feedback can be alarming, but open and honest communications are critical and feedback is important,” says Todd Schlesinger, M.D., F.A.A.D., of the Dermatology & Laser Center of Charleston.

Dr. Schlesinger’s practice previously left patient surveys and a collection box in the waiting room, but only twp would be returned each month “if we were lucky,” he says. “Then we switched to online, and we get 100-150 responses on average per month. It’s very easy and convenient.”

The practice has hired the SurveyMonkey company to handle the surveys. “We send it to every single patient who comes to the practice,” Dr. Schlesinger says, and even industry reps, visitors and staff get to answer survey questions.

It’s important to not send the surveys out immediately but wait until the next business day after a patient’s office visit. “If you do it too quickly, you annoy them,” Dr. Schlesinger says. “If you wait too long, they’re not going to remember and will be less likely to complete it.”

Dr. Schlesinger’s practice uses a SurveyMonkey service that’s HIPAA-compliant, unlike those of some other survey companies. It’s a convenient alternative to setting up your own survey software, Dr. Schlesinger says, and a SurveyMonkey app is available if you’d like to read the results on your tablet or phone.

Patients feel comfortable responding anonymously, Dr. Schlesinger says. He suggests that physicians and staff not try to figure out the identities of those who leave negative comments. Instead, “we try to basically use it as a guide to what should we do to improve the patient experience overall. Maybe there’s a way to make everything better.”

Indeed, in response to complaints, Dr. Schlesinger’s practice has improved the waiting experience by adding snacks and coffee and constantly updating patients about when they’ll be seen. The practice also lets waiting patients go home for a while if they can, he says. These changes have “really improved our patient satisfaction rate,” he says.

As for positive comments, the survey system asks patients if their remarks can be used as testimonials. Dr. Schlesinger says the practice highlights testimonials in its weekly newsletter and has seen an increase in awareness about the services it offers. 

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