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Survey Research Informs Healthcare Decisions

Have you completed these types of healthcare surveys?

Sandy had surgery on her vocal cords and was an inpatient for four days. Before she was discharged, she was given a questionnaire and asked to describe her level of satisfaction with hospital services that included the admissions process, her hospital room, food service, nurses, physicians, tests, and treatments. She was also asked to indicate her level of satisfaction with staff attitudes towards her visitors and to describe the degree to which staff addressed her emotional needs. She was also asked to describe any particularly good or bad experiences in the open-ended comments section.

Keith used the physician referral service for a hospital consortium in a small town. Two days later, he received a two-page questionnaire in the mail along with a postage paid envelope asking him to rate the Physician Referral Services and staff. He assessed his overall experience by rating staff on ease of using the service, convenience of hours, the degree to which staff understood his needs, clarity of staff responses, and staff attitudes. Open-ended items asked his preference for appointment days and times and how he found out about the referral service.

Keith was also asked whether he ultimately made an appointment with one of the hospital physicians after using the referral service. If yes, he was then asked to rate the friendliness and helpfulness of the staff, waiting room environment, and wait time for that physician. At the end of the questionnaire he was provided with a telephone number, in case he wanted to speak with someone about his experience.

Most of us have completed similar questionnaires. We’re asked for our feedback about physician, nurse and staff behavior, communications, friendliness and helpfulness, wait times, billing, cleanliness, parking, the website, and other areas of operation. We trust that hospitals and physician offices use our feedback to assess and improve their services, but we never know with certainty whether this is the case or not. What is certain is that surveys in the healthcare industry have proliferated.

Surveys are often used as a form of needs assessment in which strengths and weaknesses of the organization or medical practice are paired with the opportunities and threats presented by the external environment to inform strategic business decisions. Some survey research companies even have methods of analyses that drill down to identify the root causes of dysfunction, which helps ensure that targeted action will be taken based on feedback received.

These survey results have implications for the future of health care delivery, needed products and services, requisite marketing and business strategies, and diverse customer service models to support it all. When survey results are compared with or are otherwise integrated with results from other surveys, even more findings and strategic implications emerge.

Not surprisingly, results noted that participants are changing how they access health care and how they function within the system. Most participants stated that they ask more questions than ever before, even of their physicians. They compare costs more carefully and search for quality care. Some even state that they put off seeking care altogether.

Survey research is an effective way to inform policy and business decisions, yet many entities do not have the capability internally to develop and implement a survey research agenda. One option is to work with a survey research firm to conduct a needs assessment, develop goals and measurable outcomes, and identify survey methods, information sources, points at which data can be collected, along with methods of analysis and reporting.

Survey research related to health care in the United States provides hard data, evidence of fact, behavior and attitude information that informs those who make decisions about the health care system.

To learn how NBRI can work with your health care organization to inform business decisions, contact us now at 1-800-756-6168.

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