Survey Says

Are you getting the data you need from your patient surveys?


April 2015

“Good information comes from good surveys,” says Joseph R. Steele, MD, MMM, professor at University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. At the 2015 ACR Conference on Quality and Safety, Steele outlined steps to optimize the data your practice receives from patient surveys around quality.

1. Keep your focus on the patient. Aim to collect data you can use to make a difference for your patients, not information that reinforces what you think you already know. Research has also shown that patient satisfaction correlates with better outcomes and increased adherence to treatment programs. By boosting patient satisfaction, practices can increase the quality of the care they provide.

2. Understand your population before you develop the survey. “The biggest bias we have in medicine is that we are paternalistic and think we know what all patients want. And that is not the case,” said Steele. He suggests conducting interviews and pre-surveys with patients to find out what is important to them. “When you hear common themes, you design the survey around those themes,” he said.

3. Avoid bias. “We have to be very careful how we ask questions,” said Steele. “The same concept phrased differently will garner very different responses.” A common pitfall is overuse of yes-and-no questions. When queries are presented this way, “under-educated and under-informed audiences tend to agree,” said Steele. Rather than asking “Were you satisfied with the quality for service you received?” consider switching up the format and asking respondents to rate their satisfaction on a scale or providing an empty field for participants to write in. Bias can sneak into surveys in unexpected (and unintentional) ways and will compromise the quality of the final data. Educate yourself on different types of bias in order to collect the most objective data from your patients.

4. Choose a survey tool with powerful analytics. Robust analytics allow you to make use of the data you’ve captured and present it in an understandable, actionable way. Steele suggested tools such as Survey Monkey, KwikSurveys, and Qualtrics.

After all, what’s the point of conducting a survey if you don’t walk away with high-quality, actionable data? Aside from wasting time, effort, and money, a failure to collect good data can result in poor business decisions and wasted resources. “Sometimes the reason a decision didn’t work is because the premise you were acting on is false,” says Steele. “Make sure the data you have are good and useful.”

And Read This Too

The JACR covered this issue in “The Architecture of Smart Surveys: Core Issues in Why and How to Collect Patient and Referring Physician Satisfaction Data”

Get some inspiration from sample imaging surveys:

• Hartford Hospital

• Washington Radiology Associates

• Wake Forest Baptist Health

By Lyndsee Cordes, ACR Bulletin managing editor

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