New Year’s Resolution: Prioritizing Patient Feedback in Eyecare
By Eleni Karayeva January 19, 2022
Quality feedback is invaluable in fine tuning the patient experience. But how to make sure your patients are heard and the feedback you receive is properly evaluated? With the goal of improving the patient experience in mind, let’s examine the different types of feedback you collect in your practice and how you can optimize the process.
The most obvious and easiest form of feedback - verbal feedback - is often overlooked. Look for patterns in what could be words of gratitude praising a helpful staff member or complaints about the wait time in the reception area. As the practice owner or practice manager, you likely don’t spend as much time with your patients as the rest of the staff, but it is important to listen, and to train your staff to listen to patients' concerns. Make it a common practice to ask things like, “How was your visit? Have we answered all your questions today?” This immediate self-evaluation can help you address these questions and concerns as they occur while the patient is still in the office.
Reviews, such as those that appear on Google, Yelp and Facebook, are the most free-form type of feedback you can get. You can’t control how specific or detailed your reviewer will be and a rating-only one star review with no explanation is sure to leave you wondering what went wrong. What you can do is step back to look at the bigger picture - and identify any common themes and patterns in those reviews. If, for example, in the past few months several reviews suddenly mention long wait times, it would be worth re-examining whether something changed in how your front desk is scheduling patients.
Since unsatisfied patients are a lot more likely to leave a review than happy ones, it’s good to be proactive about getting patients to leave reviews. Yet, while a steady flow of online reviews can be good for your practice’s reputation management, they might not be objective enough. It’s common to ask a satisfied customer for that review at the final check out, when you are already confident they had a five star experience. But to truly understand how you can improve the patient experience from start to finish, you need a feedback method that is objective, specific, and addresses as many patients’ points of interaction as possible. This is where patient surveys come in.
There are multiple points of interaction in the patient experience: the initial phone call and the check-in process at the front desk; the pre-testing and exam; and lastly, the eyewear selection process and the final dispensing. When putting together your patient satisfaction survey, pose questions that are specific to each stage of the patient experience. Instead of a vague “how would you rate our staff?”, go for a more department-specific “how would you rate the helpfulness of our front desk receptionist?” Asking broad questions simply won’t give you details you need to improve in specific areas.
As for the format itself, keep the survey short! Five to ten well-worded questions should be enough for you to gain an understanding of how the patient’s visit went; anything longer than that, and the response rate is likely to drop. Using a scale, for example from 0 to 10, would give you a net score which can be used as a metric. But even with this format, leave one open-ended (and optional!) question that would allow patients to type a response; though many might leave this field blank, whoever does respond could be offering valuable opinions on their experience in your practice.
Ways to get responses
Because reviewers often fall into two categories, the very content patients and the extremely unsatisfied ones (the latter being the most vocal), we need to find ways to get everyone else in between to share their thoughts too. What was it about their experience that was missing the “wow” factor?
The best way to collect unbiased feedback is to give patients the option to share it anonymously. Though the major review platforms don’t allow anonymous reviews, the surveys you send to patients should always have that option. Oftentimes, even if a patient has a concern, they might be hesitant to voice it; those are the patients who would feel more comfortable expressing their opinions privately.
When it comes to offering incentives to get more responses, it’s best to keep those to a minimum. Any incentives should not be direct. For example, it’s okay to enter a survey respondent into a raffle, but offering a discount to every patient is sure to result in disingenuous feedback.
Tying it all together
A notable difference between reviews and surveys is that reviews become the face of your practice while surveys are only for you to see. Is there a way to tie the two together? Yes, indeed! Develop a structured approach to gathering feedback from patients. Don’t wait until after to address patients’ concerns. In fact, sending them a survey after their visit can avert surprising negative reviews. If you’re already using a recall software such as SolutionReach, use it to help you automate the process. These kinds of softwares often come with a handy feature that allows you to first collect feedback from a survey and then, if the overall rating is high (9 out of 10 on a scale of 10), the patient receives a link to review the practice on an online profile such as Google. On the other hand, if the patient assigns you a low rating, they are given the option to leave additional comments instead of a public review.
Since the goal of collecting patient feedback is to identify areas for improvement in your practice, don’t be discouraged by criticism. Following the above suggestions will help highlight the issues and let you focus on finding the solutions. At the end of the day, increased patient satisfaction will lead to better practice performance.