Can Patient Satisfaction Surveys Really Improve Performance?

When it comes to medical office procedures, the “customer” isn’t necessarily always right. Letting your patients influence the way you run your practice through patient surveys can send your office down a slippery slope. However, there are times when patient satisfaction surveys are a necessary evil and can be an important part of your administration. These surveys can have a positive impact on a practice, but are they the best idea for your office? Here’s are look at some of the pros and cons of surveying your patients and acting on the results.

Can surveys actually hurt patient care?

In 2013, the Keystone Physician journal published an editorial written by Dr. William Sonnenberg, president of the Pennsylvania Academy of Family Physicians. In this editorial, Dr. Sonnenberg addressed the idea of using patient satisfaction as a guide for physician evaluations and payment. He reasoned that surveys are not the best way to measure a practice’s and physician’s success and can potentially harm patient care. Often the pressure of gaining good survey scores can cause unintentional outcomes. Physicians may lean towards giving into someone’s wants, rather than their needs. For example, in Dr. Sonnenberg’s editorial he discusses a “physician in the audience who told the crowd that he was able to increase his satisfaction score by 7% simply by prescribing an antibiotic to all patients who call with a complaint of cough, sore throat, or sinus headache.” As our society is rapidly building immunities to many antibiotics, this is not the healthiest way to treat a common cold.

Patient feedback is useful information.

While there are some obvious drawbacks to taking surveys, some of the data can be helpful to your practice and your doctors. Not only do questionnaires create a dialogue between providers and patients, it provides recognition for people who go above the minimum requirements. Answers to questions about waiting times, knowledgeable staff members, even office atmosphere issues can be addressed and improved.

It’s impossible to score high all of the time.

The format of these surveys can often set up a medical practice for failure by including absolute words with little to no room for clarification. Words like “always” or “never” leave a lot of room for speculation with no conversation that helps find a solution.

Surveys can be motivators.

Knowing that patients are going to evaluate their visit can be a positive motivator for doctors and administrative staff. This can lead to simple improvements like more personal engagement, extra smiles, or better eye contact with the thought of positive reinforcement in mind.

However you feel about satisfaction surveys, don’t plan on them going away any time soon. Establish a plan among your team to improve survey scores and your patients’ experience. Utilize the data received, but don’t let it negatively affect the quality of care that your practice offers.  We would love to hear your thoughts and experiences with satisfaction surveys on our Facebook page.

Posted by
  • As a speaker at the first ad hoc meeting of rheumatology practice managers gathered in a single small room at its infancy a decade ago, I’m amazed to see how NORM has blossomed into a high energy organization of depth and professional meetings with parallel break-out symposia between plenary sessions. NORM has truly come of age. This is where the “business” of rheumatology gets learned. The ”guildmanship” for rheumatology practice management is now strong.- Paul H. Caldron, DO, FACP, FACR, MBA, Arizona Arthritis and Rheumatology Associates
  • In a time of demanding changes in the management of medical practices in the US, NORM has been a lifesaver to the community of Rheumatology practices.  NORM has allowed our practice to stay ahead of the many demands of CMS and others payors and has ensured that our practice remains cognizant of new issues that arise in HIPPA compliance, human resources and medical billing to name a few. Sending our Practice Manager to NORM's conferences has been cost-effective and beneficial to our practice because she returns to our office with an abundance of information that otherwise would have taken months to compile. Every Rheumatology practice that wishes to stay on top of emerging issues in practice management should consider sending a member of their staff to NORM's conference.- Michael S. Rosen M.D., Chester County Rheumatology PC
  • Thanks to all those wonderful people in the NORM Network who respond to emails, offering their advice, experience, time, and support ... I haven't even been a member a full year yet and I am amazed at the dedication of everyone who responds to helping via emails and the NORM Organization itself! I have barely had a chance to explore the resources and I have yet to really dive into requests for help still I am silently learning so much and do occasionally offer what I can! Thank you all!- Cheryl Piambino, Kenneth E. Bresky, DO

What We Offer

We’re adding value to practices across the nation by creating a thriving community of rheumatology managers and physicians.

Membership Benefits

Become a Member

Annual Conference

Conference Registration