Do you have a system for gathering feedback from all or some of your patients after they have visited the practice? Patient feedback can help you develop strategy, fine tune your business offering and motivate staff.
WHY ASK FOR PATIENT FEEDBACK?
Emma Pearce, Marketing Consultant and owner of Pearce Marketing says, “There is nothing better than hearing it from the horse’s mouth. You can be an expert in your industry, you can be accurate in your diagnostics of what is going on the shop floor, in the branch, but sometimes people may not say the things you need to hear. They are more likely to be frank and honest when asked for feedback after the appointment, online or by an independent third party.” There are a number of options to gather feedback, from online surveys, to face to face interviews, one to one telephone interviews, or focus groups.
Online surveys are simple to set up, using standalone questionnaire software or systems that integrate with your practice management system. Because they can be automated, they can be sent to every customer which has the advantage that every customer feels you are interested in their views. They are ideal for collecting quantitative data, and asking questions with yes/no or ‘rate on a scale from 1-10’ answers. They are less good for asking open questions such as ‘tell us about your experience’, because it takes time to read through all the written answers. Use online surveys to
develop practice customer satisfaction data that you can compare month on month. Emma Pearce says, “You can also put one or two questions on postcards on a desk, or on an interactive TV screen in the waiting area, to get a picture of what a range of people think on a focussed issue.”
Patient feedback is relevant for practices of every size. Stephen Beirne from Stenhousemuir says, “I opened my practice 2016 and built my website. On my site I’ve used an app called Trusted Shops. Patients can click on
it to give you testimonials. It’s easy for the patients to do, they can rate from zero to five stars. I’ve used the testimonials section on my Facebook page too. I’m thinking about doing a poll via the website, to see if my patients want me to open later. It’s all straightforward. Some people don’t like criticism but it can be useful: a guy said to me some days he didn’t know if my practice was open or not, and I realised sometimes I forgot to put my A-board out. If you don’t ask, you
Emily Willerton is Technical Support Officer at BBR Optometry, Hereford. She says, “We used to do paper questionnaires but some patients didn’t like them. When they did return them there were five pages to
process, some people wrote an essay. It was hard to get anything out of it. We needed a way to get
feedback that patients wanted to take part in. Now, when people have an eye exam, when we check their
details we ask if they are happy for us to send a questionnaire. We use our existing recall system to send
different questionnaires for private, NHS and MECS patients, as well as ones for those who have purchased
sunglasses or specs. All the information is manged by an outside marketing company. My contact there uses
Survey Monkey to create the questionnaires which I embed into our emails. She collates the responses and
sends us back the figures. These are fed back to management and staff meetings.”
Patient feedback is also important for large optical groups. Boots Opticians has recently partnered with
independent healthcare review website iWantGreatCare. Patients can rate each practice and optometrist/contact lens optician between one and five stars, as well as rating the information they were provided with, if the practice were staff ready to assist and whether they would recommend the practice or optometrist/contact lens optician to others. In addition, patients can provide free text responses outlining how they found their visit overall. Ben Fletcher, Managing Director, says, “We take caring for our patients very seriously and nothing is more helpful than honest feedback. We believe as a company we should be open and honest therefore we are happy that our feedback will be shared publicly. The feedback helps us to understand and learn to be better for the future.”
IN DEPTH INTERVIEWS
For more in depth information, you can commission a company to carry out telephone interviews. Each call will be based on a number of agreed questions, but there is scope for the interviewer to respond to what
the patient says in a way that an online survey can’t. You will need to allocate more time for analysis. Emma
Pearce says, “An independent third party speaks to your client, so people can feel more able to say both
positive and negative things. The interviewer might use wording such as, ‘The client wants you to be honest,
don’t hold back, what improvements can you suggest?’” Face to face interviews are also time consuming, but you will get good quality in depth qualitative information from a selected sample of patients. Interviews are good if you want to use information from patients, or staff, to develop business strategy.
A focus group involves inviting in a group of people to discuss questions on a topic. Ideally you will select a
group that has some similarities – women over 60, for example. If you run three focus groups with a certain
sector you will have in depth qualitative data on, say, what women over sixty think about your practice. One group alone can’t give you reliable data as they may be swayed by a strong character in the group or the discussion may go off track. Emma Pearce says, “We ran focus groups for staff and customers of an optical practice when they were doing a rebrand. We had a meeting room in a yacht club, put on nibbles. We asked people to come in their own time – they attended because they are loyal long term customers, and they were pleased to be asked.”
NET PROMOTOR SCORE
Net promoter score (NPS) is a specific trademarked customer loyalty metric which might be helpful if you are looking for a concise way of measuring satisfaction. Emma explains, “NPS measures someone’s willingness to refer you. It is a gauge of how much people enjoy your service., a measurement of advocates for your brand.” The Net Promoter Score is calculated based on responses to a single question, ‘How likely is it that you would recommend our company/ product/ service to a friend or colleague?’, with answers most often based on a 0 to 10 scale. People who respond with 9 to 10 are called Promoters. Emma Pearce explains that this sort of feedback needs to be followed by action, “If you are
using a system like this, when you have a client that is really happy with you, take that moment to ask, ‘Do you have anyone else who might like to come to us?’ Use the moment when they are on a high, don’t wait. Suggest they send a text, post on Facebook – that’s the moment they will make the effort.”
HOW TO USE FEEDBACK
There are lots of different ways to use patient feedback and it is important to consider this when selecting your
method. Emma Pearce says, “If I’m devising a marketing plan, for example, I will try to speak to a proper mix of people that reflects your customer base. We will ask questions like, ‘How did you find out about the business?’ ‘What made you choose us?’ ‘What did you like?’ and ‘What would make it better?’ We then ask for more info about what they read and where they go which helps us identify routes for marketing.”
Patient feedback can be used to promote your practice. Emma says, “At the end of the call, if
someone has said something nice, we might ask people if we can use their comments for a testimonial.” You can regularly launch a statistic about patient satisfaction such as, ‘97 per cent of our customers say… ’
This generates news for your social media, website and practice newsletters. And it doesn’t stop there. Referring to the most important function of patient feedback, Emma says, “We can use positive feedback
in staff meeting as a boost … and the less positive feedback can be seen as a trigger to improve.” It is
vital that feedback is used: there is no point in devising the best survey in the world if the data sits on a computer, unread. Emma sums up: “Become a truly customer focussed company. The more contact you have with clients, the more you will understand them, and deliver the service that they need.” Gather feedback, book in time every week or month to go through it and feed back to staff so you can create a cycle of continuous improvement.