As a healthcare professional, providing top-quality services for patients is likely one of your highest priorities. But in the busy day-to-day routine of running a healthcare practice, your focus on the patient experience may begin to waver.

You may think your patient satisfaction rates are fine, but are you truly delivering the best patient care you could be? What if you aren’t? And how do you know if you don’t ask?

Obtaining patient feedback periodically is an important step in prioritizing patient satisfaction and safety, and the process doesn’t have to be challenging or time-consuming. With the right digital tools and processes, you can request feedback from patients automatically.

Through this data, your practice will be able to transform the patient experience and optimize care quality. In turn, you’ll gain stronger retention and loyalty and bolster your practice’s long-term sustainability.

Understanding the Importance of Patient Feedback

Today, numerous healthcare practices are cropping up each year and you likely have at least a few competitors in your area. The availability of healthcare providers, combined with the steep costs of healthcare services, means patients won’t put up with unsatisfactory care. They’re apt to move to another healthcare professional at the drop of a hat.

Aside from losing patients, low-quality patient care can lead to a range of negative outcomes, like potential liabilities and a poor industry reputation. But if your practice is like many, you don’t currently have the systems in place to learn patient opinions before they go public.

If your practice does not already have the processes in place to invite patient feedback, now is the time to implement them. Patient feedback is vital to your healthcare services, as it directly informs your service improvements.

Listening to patient experiences allows you and your healthcare providers to identify issues, fix problems, and improve patient outcomes. You’ll create a more patient-centric approach with this one simple change, ensuring you deliver the highest quality of care to your patient base.

Incorporating patient feedback into your health services also boosts patient loyalty. Patients will know that your practice values the patient experience and takes quality of care seriously.

When you directly respond to a patient’s feedback and make changes to your practice accordingly, you’ll win that patient over for life. You also build a stronger relationship with patients, helping them overlook future missteps and solidify their trust in your providers.

Of course, when you boost patient loyalty, you improve patient retention. Retention is key to your practice’s long-term success and profitability. You can spend less time marketing prospective patients and more on efforts that improve patient satisfaction when you have higher retention rates.

Patient Experience Feedback and Healthcare Quality

The relationship between patient feedback and health care quality isn’t just hearsay; real data points to the necessity of patient feedback.

A 2013 systematic review of the connection between patient experience and clinical safety found that patient experience feedback can shape healthcare services to better meet a patient’s needs. Feedback also helps patients make better use of the clinical advice they have received and use primary care more effectively.

In recent years, patient feedback surveys have become a key component in improving patient care, according to an analysis and commentary published in Health Affairs. Many countries use patient experience data to measure healthcare quality, and the World Health Organization uses this data as an indicator of a healthcare facility’s responsiveness.

Methods of Collecting Patient Feedback

Inviting patient feedback is important, but your methods of gathering patient feedback are even more important.

You need to encourage as many patients as possible to share their opinions of your health services, as the more data you have, the more valuable the overall dataset. This means your methods of gathering patient feedback should be:

  • Easily accessible
  • Convenient for patients to complete
  • Highly accurate and precise, allowing you to glean valuable data from them

Your healthcare facility can use several different methods of collecting patient feedback data. The more methods you offer for data collection, the more patient feedback you can expect to collect.

Historically, many healthcare providers have offered physical patient experience surveys that patients can fill out with a pen and paper before or after their appointment. While some patients may still prefer these surveys, they take longer to fill out and require more time to input on your end.

To save time and improve the quality of your data, your practice should consider using patient feedback tools and digital surveys alongside your in-person, written feedback. Patients can fill out patient satisfaction surveys on their own mobile devices, or you can let them borrow a tablet during their appointment.

Aside from these more formal methods, don’t underestimate the power of verbal feedback. Your staff can collect patient feedback from patients verbally after their appointments. You can also collect real-time patient feedback by inquiring about their experiences during appointments.

Asking, “How was your appointment?” or “Is there anything we can improve for next time?” can inform you about your practice’s quality of care and help patients feel heard.

Digital Transformation in Patient Feedback Collection

Your healthcare practice has likely already made the switch from paper files to digital ones, and it only makes sense to also go digital with your patient experience surveys. Using digital tools for feedback collection offers numerous benefits, such as:

  • Improving the efficiency of data collection, allowing patients to fill out surveys faster and enabling your practice to compile the data more rapidly
  • Enhancing the accuracy of your data collected by eliminating errors that occur when transferring data from physical to digital environments
  • Letting your practice dedicate more time to analyzing data than collecting it
  • Allowing patients to provide feedback through a method most convenient to them

Many tools and programs facilitate the data collection process for health services. The best digital tools for collecting feedback include features like:

  • Providing templates to create patient surveys on a scale of “Strongly Disagree” to “Strongly Agree”
  • Automatically sending surveys to patients after appointments so that they can recount their experiences while they are still fresh
  • Compiling data instantly after patients submit their surveys
  • Providing data analysis of the information you have collected, allowing you to understand the patient experience quickly
  • Sending automatic follow-ups to dissatisfied patients to attempt to right the wrong and prevent them from leaving negative reviews on public platforms

By implementing digital feedback tools, your healthcare practice can save a significant amount of time while collecting the most valuable data possible from your patient base.

Analyzing and Acting on Patient Feedback

Acquiring patient feedback is only the first step, and in isolation, it won’t do you much good. You need to take the feedback you have collected, analyze it, and act on it.

While the comments patients leave on their feedback survey responses can help you understand their overall opinion of your medical practice, you can glean further insights when you analyze the survey data. This may involve:

  • Assigning values to survey responses (i.e., “1” for “strongly disagree” and “5” for “strongly agree”)
  • Compiling the data for each survey question
  • Finding the average, median, mode, and other metrics for the feedback data

After completing a review of patient ratings and compiling the data, you can begin to analyze how the metrics you’ve collected translate to the patient experience. For example, let’s say you have an average feedback score of 2 (“mildly disagree”) for the survey statement “You felt your healthcare provider spent enough time with you during your appointment.”

This could indicate that your medical staff tends to rush through appointments. Maybe you are overloading your schedule or getting behind due to roadblocks in your day. Using this negative feedback thoughtfully can help you improve patients’ experiences moving forward and hopefully avoid similar sentiments in the future.

Both positive and negative feedback are important to your healthcare practice’s growth. By conducting a thorough review of patient surveys, you will have the tools to improve communication skills, enhance patient engagement, implement quality improvement projects, and improve clinical outcomes overall.

Case Studies: Success Stories of Acting on Feedback

After you collect feedback and analyze it, the final step is to act on that feedback and make significant improvements to your processes. Many practices across the healthcare industry have improved their quality of care after gathering feedback through online reviews and surveys.

A systematic review of healthcare service improvements using positive patient feedback found that the changes healthcare facilities make based on feedback are largely positive. The review recognized favorable emotional, familial, and work-related changes from positive patient experience data, and the authors recommend that healthcare managers use positive feedback more regularly.

Meanwhile, a different systematic review found that hospitals implemented a wide range of quality improvement initiatives after gathering patient feedback data. The initiatives implemented by a multidisciplinary quality improvement team that consisted of nurses, administrators, and physicians produced positive outcomes for the healthcare practice.

Still, both of these reviews concluded that further research is necessary to determine the exact impact patient feedback can have on healthcare professionals’ behaviors and patient involvement initiatives.

Challenges in Managing Patient Feedback

As your healthcare practice creates a new patient feedback system, be aware of potential challenges that could thwart your efforts to learn patient narratives and use feedback effectively. Common challenges include:

Handling Unsolicited Feedback

Disgruntled patients may occasionally share negative comments with your healthcare providers, and your instinct may be to ignore them. But this feedback can be just as valuable as formal feedback. If a patient had an unsatisfactory experience, you need to understand why.

Convincing Patients To Share Feedback

Many patients won’t want to complete your survey or share feedback through other means — even if you ask nicely. You may need to provide an additional incentive, such as a discount on a future service or entry into a giveaway, to motivate patients to share their opinions.

Shaping Attitudes Toward Patient Feedback

Your first instinct may be to act defensively or dismiss negative feedback. Criticism can be hard to hear, but you and your healthcare providers should be open to hearing it so that you can support your goal of enhancing the patient experience.

Implementing Worthwhile Changes

You may realize, through patient feedback, that your practice struggles with time management or bedside manner. However, improving those issues may require strategic planning that you feel like you don’t have time for.

Scheduling time to review patient feedback and brainstorm changes can help you make the most of the data you collect.

Gaining Credible Feedback

Do your patient surveys actually reflect patient opinions? Taking care to craft survey questions that target issues within your practice and leaving no room for misinterpretation can help you gather feedback that is credible, accurate, and valuable.

Don’t just ask surface-level questions about how patients perceive your practice’s physical environment; dive deeper into their experiences at each stage of their appointment.

Swaying Patient Feedback

The way you word your survey questions can impact patient responses. You don’t want to sway patients toward a positive or negative opinion; instead, your questions should allow them to consider their experiences and form their own opinions objectively.

Using objective language in your questions can help you avoid skewing data.

Future of Patient Feedback in Healthcare Services

Innovations in patient feedback collection can help your practice overcome some of the most common challenges associated with gathering and analyzing feedback.

Emerging survey and review collection technologies improve patient response rates and ensure the highest quality of patient data. These programs let you automatically send surveys to patients as soon as they finish their appointments, inviting feedback while their experiences are still fresh in their minds.

Your practice does not need to construct survey questions from scratch. With the help of modern survey technology, you can paste survey questions that use the right wording to foster patient engagement while gathering the most valuable data for your practice. You can ensure that these questions are objective and don’t sway feedback positively or negatively.

Finally, you can use modern data analytics software to glean the most valuable information from your patient surveys. You can match specific responses with specific health conditions, break survey results into categories like “new patients” vs. “long-term patients,” and better understand trends in patient feedback.

Improve Patient Satisfaction and Safety With a High-Quality Patient Feedback Process

Implementing patient feedback processes, learning how to analyze that data, and then acting on the positive and negative opinions you receive from patients are all important steps in shaping the patient experience. By understanding patients’ opinions of your practice and their experiences there, you can enhance all of the following:

  • Patient safety
  • Quality of care
  • Patient loyalty
  • Patient retention

But the methods through which you collect feedback can impact the quality of your data. Using the right patient feedback tools allows you to collect thoughtful, valuable data from the most patients and then accurately analyze that data for your practice’s growth.

Weave is a patient automation platform that streamlines many aspects of fostering a high-quality patient experience. With Weave, you can collect more patient feedback without adding unnecessary tasks to your staff’s to-do list.

Explore Weave’s solutions and get a demo today to begin improving your patient feedback processes.

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