How to overcome the hang-ups of patient surveys: Part 2

Patient surveys can help you better meet patients' needs. Don't be afraid to ask patients to fill them out, but be sure to make it easy for patients. Here are some ideas to get you on the road to honest feedback from your patients.

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Steps to make sure patient surveys are addressed and effective

In my last article, I talked about the importance of measuring patient satisfaction with surveys. To combat the hang-ups that prevent you from making use of this powerful tool, we talked about why you need to make time for patient surveys. I shared some suggestions about what to ask and how to ask it. Rather than giving you a recap (feel free to go back for a refresher,) let’s move right to the next step.

Dental Patient SurveyYou know what survey questions you’re going to ask, so, what now?

1. Do it immediately
Surveys should be sent to patients the moment they leave your office while the details of their appointment are still fresh in their mind. What’s more, you want to take advantage of the connection they feel to your practice, which will dissipate over time. The closer you are to the front of their mind, the more likely they are to respond.

Establish processes so that the survey doesn’t get overlooked. Make it a routine part of your checkout process—the patient isn’t considered “checked out” until the survey has been sent.

2. Consider automation
To make things easier on you and your staff, use a patient engagement service to automatically send feedback surveys to patients following their visits. These automated services will collect the completed survey responses and send the reports to you and your staff.

3. Tell patients it’s coming
In order to improve the likelihood that your patients will actually completeyour surveys, tell them face-to-face that you’ll send an email asking a few questions about their experience, and that you’d love their honest feedback, whether negative or positive. Also mention that they have the option of responding anonymously, if the surveying service allows.

Hang-up 3: Doing something with it: Analyzing results and taking action
You worked hard to get patients’ feedback. It took time, consideration, and resources. Here, though, is where it often falls apart. You’ve gotten this far, so take a moment to learn how to make the most of your results.

Give someone ownershipIf you don’t, no one will. While it’s important to give everyone a role in the analysis, giving one staff member the responsibility of following the process from beginning to end will ensure that the results aren’t overlooked or left unaddressed. Especially if you aren’t using an automated system that will send reports and alerts intuitively, it’s much too easy to let surveys go unaccounted for. How do you react to this valuable insight?

Resolve issues with dissatisfied patientsFirst, resolve issues with the most dissatisfied patients. Dealing with cranky patients doesn’t sound appealing, but consider this: patients who have their complaints resolved are up to 8% more loyal than if they never had a problem in the first place!

1. Call them personally and explain why you were so impersonal. Your excuse doesn’t matter; the fact that you’re apologizing is enough. Explain that your dog ate the living room rug that morning, sending you to work irritable.
2. Apologize sincerely, personally, and fully.
3. Offer the dissatisfied patient a discount or special offer to use at their next visit. Patients will likely give you a second chance to see what you’re really like. In fact, they’ll probably share the story with friends and send more patients your way. “My dentist was so apologetic. He even offered half-off my next visit. What a great doctor!”

Address happy patients, too
1. Thank every single one of your happy patients. If they’re taking the time to respond, you need to take the time to appreciate it. You can make a habit of emailing them with a note of thanks right after you receive their survey, or simply mark it in their patient information and give them a special thank you the next time they come in.
2. Reach out to patients who are especially positive. What better way to generate referrals and positive patient reviews?

What about the big problems?
With the small problems, it’s pretty simple to turn a dissatisfied patient into a satisfied one, but what about with big problems? What if your survey feedback includes a complaint about a staff member arguing with a patient? Calling the upset patient to apologize may work, but if the patient’s complaint can’t be resolved, how should you react? Do you count your losses and move on? No! You work with the patient to find a mutually beneficial result, and you still offer a discount for another visit. Treat all dissatisfied patients the same, no matter the level of their dissatisfaction.

Of equal importance, be sure to take the time and discuss with your staff how to properly handle irate patients next time something happens.

How to maximize completed surveys
The best dentists use patient feedback surveys to steer their practices in the right direction. The results always boost patient satisfaction and revenue. Your patients will love you and share that love with friends, growing your practice exponentially.

Amy LavangeAmy LaVange currently manages communications and written content for Solutionreach, the cloud-based platform previously known as Smile Reminder, that enables health-care professionals to engage and communicate with 100% of their patients.

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