Why Physicians Should Move Away from Paper Surveys

I recently received a physician satisfaction survey in the mail. At first, I thought it might be a bill or some results, but once I opened it I couldn’t help but giggle. I have been working with CipherHealth for nearly two years and have discussed HCAHPS, patient satisfaction, and surveys more times than I can count. Every day I learn more about these scores, and yet it took me two years before I received one.

For the first time, I truly understood how unreliable these surveys are. After scanning the questions, I realized that 1. I was not going to fill it out, 2. Even if I filled it out, I probably wouldn’t remember to mail it in, and 3. The survey is likely seen more often as junk mail than a piece of valuable information for providers.

Even if I did fill out and send in my survey, how long would it be before the physician saw these results? It would likely require a fair amount of time to be collect and analyze paper survey responses. Paper surveys have become nearly as obsolete as a CD or floppy disc. It is a wasteful, time-consuming, and inefficient modality. While hospitals do not have an alternative to the paper-based HCAHPS surveys, physicians are not bound to them.

While physician groups are similarly confined to email, phone, and paper survey methods for CGCAHPS, there are plenty of other ways they can more meaningfully measure patient experience. Physician groups can boost patient feedback by emailing brief surveys, texting patients a few follow-up questions, or even setting up kiosks to survey patients before they leave the practice. These surveys also allow physician groups to drill-down on different topics that are more relevant to them (as compared to CG CAHPS content), such as recognizing specific staff members for exceptional service. Since some patients are inundated with the texts and emails they receive every day, and many patients like myself will completely disregard a paper survey, the best bet for the highest response rate would be to survey patients directly after their visit. With the encounter fresh in their mind, practices are likely to get a full picture of the patient experience and truly identify opportunity areas for improvement.

In an age where patient opinions matter more and more, it is important that physicians take the time to think about how patients perceive their care and experiences. Asking patients to answer questions about their visit before they go home will also show that the practice cares about how patients feel and will likely evoke positive feelings and increased loyalty. As a patient, I encourage you to think of alternatives to the paper-based survey and find ways to quickly and easily capture information from patients.

For more information on capitalizing on patient feedback, click here to check out our post on the value of a point of care patient survey.


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