How to collect patient feedback
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How to collect patient feedback

Do you collect patient feedback in your practice? If not, you could be missing out on valuable insights that can improve the patient experience and build patient loyalty.

You may think of collecting patient feedback as an extra step that you simply don’t have time for. But it can be extremely helpful for a practice to ask patients about their experience. Not only does it help you identify areas of your service or premises that you can improve, it also builds patient loyalty by demonstrating how much you genuinely care about their needs.

Importantly, how you respond to feedback – both positive and negative – can be the difference between building trust and respect with your patients, and losing them to the practice down the road. Read on for some tips on how to effectively collect patient feedback in your practice.

Why should I collect patient feedback?

Patient feedback can help you improve the quality of healthcare your practice provides. But did you know that it can also help increase both patient and employee satisfaction? Asking for feedback shows that you genuinely care about a patient’s experience, which is a positive message to send that can encourage repeat visits.

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) has released a Patient feedback guide for general practices. According to the RACGP, patient feedback can be used to:

  • Improve the quality of healthcare provided by your practice
  • Improve other aspects of your practice, such as administrative and reception services
  • Provide constructive feedback to your employees
  • Demonstrate that you value your patients’ views and needs.

By collecting and responding to patient feedback, your patients are also more likely to follow the advice given to them by their healthcare practitioner, return to the practice and experience continuity of care.

How do I collect patient feedback?

You can collect patient feedback in a number of ways, depending on what’s suitable for your practice and patients:

  • Online questionnaires

The most popular way of collecting feedback is through an online questionnaire that you can send to the patient via email or SMS. Cloud-based software, such as SurveyMonkey, makes it easy to create and send feedback surveys, as well as analyse the findings. Online questionnaires are the easiest way to collect lots of quantitative data that is easy to collate and report.

  • Phone calls

Calling patients and asking them questions over the phone may be a little more time-consuming, but it is a good way to collect feedback from patients who may not be able to complete an online questionnaire. Speaking to the patient directly can also give you the opportunity to clarify their feedback and also try and resolve any issues or questions they’ve raised on the spot.

  • Focus groups

While focus groups may seem unnecessary for the majority of practices, if you’re looking to make significant changes to your service offering, for example, a focus group conducted face-to-face or with video conferencing can provide you with in-depth understanding of your patients’ views. There is a skill to running effective focus groups, however, so if you’re not confident with this, you can always hire an external facilitator to manage this process for you.

  • Integrated apps

If you use MedicalDirector software, you can integrate a third-party app, such as MyHealth1st, to collect and manage patient feedback. In MyHealth1st, you can create custom online surveys to gather insights to help improve the patient experience. Questions can be customised to gain the insights you want and to help generate greater patient awareness of your services.

When should I request patient feedback?

The best time to request feedback is shortly after the patient’s appointment has concluded. That way, the experience is still fresh in their mind and they are more likely to complete all the questions.

While many patients will willingly provide feedback if asked, you can also include an incentive (such as an eGift Card or movie voucher) to encourage participation. Just remember to communicate this upfront, and ensure the incentive is identical for all participants.

What questions should I ask?

The RACGP describes six themes to address when asking for patient feedback, with a minimum of three topics per theme recommended. The themes are:

  • Access and availability
  • Provision of information
  • Privacy and confidentiality
  • Continuity of care
  • Communication and interpersonal skills of clinical staff
  • Communication and interpersonal skills of administrative staff.

For example, under access and availability, you can ask questions around waiting times, length of consultations or opening hours. In relation to communication and interpersonal skills of clinical staff, you may want to seek feedback on how well patients were communicated with and made to feel welcome when they arrived for their appointment.

It’s also a good idea to ask for some basic demographic information (that won’t identify the specific patient), such as gender, age group and postcode. That way, you can ensure you have collected feedback from a suitable representation of your patient population. Remember to adhere to the Australian Privacy Principles guidelines which cover how you regulate, store and use the personal information of your patients, including their healthcare, financial or other personally identifiable information.

Check out the RACGP’s Toolkit for developing practice-specific questionnaires for a list of questions you can ask patients.

Responding to negative feedback

Everyone wants to receive a glowing review, but receiving negative feedback can actually be more useful. It can bring to your attention any areas of your service or premises that can be improved (which you may have overlooked because you haven’t experienced your practice as a patient).

If you do receive negative feedback, it’s important to respond to it by thanking the patient for their feedback, indicating what you will be doing to address it (if the feedback is fair and actionable), and potentially contacting them to discuss their feedback further. Ignoring feedback, or worse, becoming defensive, is a sure-fire way to lose patients. Remember, patient feedback can be a valuable strategy to help improve the patient experience and grow your practice, so consider implementing a feedback program in your practice today.