Tuesday, 29 May 2012

The Scandal in Patient Satisfaction Surveys

I do not have experience in more than 3 industries, so I can’t make a generic observation. But one thing that never missed my observation was the poorly framed customer/patient satisfaction survey in healthcare industry compared to other industries. In couple of healthcare facilities where I had the opportunity to put my hands onto these so-called feedback forms, or the now popularized satisfaction surveys, I could not imagine the reason why would so many people in so many hospitals do such a lousy job. In one clinic, what I witnessed was even more shocking. In place of sentences as questions, there were phrases. So it left it upto the patient to first create question in her mind, then its meaning and then reply to it suitably.

What this points to is the lack of our seriousness in getting a proper and genuine feedback from our customers, i.e. patients. This practice, unfortunately, also points to our unwillingness to change.

A hospital has lots of departments – OPDs, reception, admission, registration, billing, laboratory, radiology, pharmacy and many more. One common feature of the feedback form is that it tries to assimilate the feedback from the patients on all these departments in one form. Consequently, there is this tendency to form questions like these – What was your satisfaction with the reception? (Options: Highly Satisfied, Satisfied, Dissatisfied, Highly Dissatisfied). I would like to ask the person who formed this question, what would you understand, if the respondent replied that he was dissatisfied with the reception? Yes, the respondent was dissatisfied with the reception, but what was it that led to the dissatisfaction? Was it the waiting time, was it the receptionist’s behaviour, was it the poor air-conditioning or was it the painting put behind the receptionists? Year after year and month after month, hospital employees have been very religiously getting patient feedback on questions like these. I guess that’s the reason this industry is so very backward in its management practices. Somehow it never cares for the reasonable feedback from its customers. That is why this post begins with the title – the scandal in P.S. surveys.

So what is the solution?

I believe it’s not about the inability to create the right feedback form. It’s just the absolute absence of intention to improve our systems as a response to poor feedback from the patients. So what we need first is the willingness to learn from our patients and capture what they feel about our services in a meaningful way. Patient satisfaction surveys, or PSS, have to be designed keep the specific objective in mind. Do not play a generalist here. Be very specific in seeking feedback. For example, the question could look like this: “If you were dissatisfied with our reception service, what contributed to your dissatisfaction?” (Options: 1. Behaviour of the receptionist, waiting time at the reception, ambience of the reception, seating arrangement, any other ___ ).

1 comment:

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