How Text Messaging and Mobile Can Improve Patient Satisfaction Surveys

Patient Satisfaction,mhealth

iphone-6-458153_1280.jpgMeasuring patient satisfaction has long been a challenge for healthcare organizations. Response rates to traditional paper surveys are generally very low as evidenced by a recent study that confirmed only 1.7 percent of patient satisfaction surveys are ever filled out. Beyond that, it can sometime be weeks or months before any feedback is received making it difficult for healthcare organizations to draw any meaningful conclusions. The timeliness of feedback coupled with generally low response rates make it very challenging to identify and address systemic issues that drive dissatisfaction. With the continued rise of consumerism and the trend of reimbursements becoming linked to patient satisfaction, the importance of timely and representative feedback that drive true satisfaction insights is growing. So how can healthcare organizations ensure that their surveys are being completed and the data they receive is timely and actionable? Text messaging and mobile is one answer.

Patient Satisfaction Survey Via Mobile Device

The vast majority of US adults now have cell phones – regardless of socioeconomic status or age – and the trend is clear that the majority of cell phones are now smart phones. According to the Pew Research Center, “64% of American adults now own a smartphone of some kind, up from 35% in the spring of 2011. Mobile technology is reaching the point of ubiquity - whether it is a feature phone, smart phone, or tablet. Your patients are connected, so doesn’t it make sense to connect with them through a medium they're already using?

Sending satisfaction surveys through text messaging is a quick, easy and cost effective way to obtain immediate feedback. Consider this scenario: twenty-four hours after an encounter a patient is automatically sent a brief one to three question text message survey. In the event that a patient responds with answers that indicate dissatisfaction, an alert (via email or text message) can then be sent to a designated department within the healthcare organization for service recovery. If the organization desires additional information, a link can be included within the survey that directs the patient to a mobile web survey that supports the ability to dig even deeper into the patient’s experience. For patients that are frequent visitors to the healthcare organization, business rules can be established that limit the frequency of surveys. The advantages of this channel are many patients find it quick and easy which lends itself to higher response rates. Healthcare organizations like the flexibility (surveys can be tailored to encounter type and new questions can be quickly and easily deployed) and the cost profile versus other survey mechanisms.

The Quality of the Data

The information generated from a patient satisfaction survey can be as complex or as simple as an organization would like to make it. Surveys can be patient driven, meaning that when the patient responds in a certain way, follow up questions can be asked to provide further insights. For example, if a patient indicates that wait times could be improved, a follow up question may ask where in the process they waited too long at registration, waiting to be called back to the exam room or waiting to see the clinician. It is important to note that a thoughtful survey design is critical. It is easy to fall into the trap of making the survey too long or too complex which makes it overwhelming for the patient and, ultimately, degrades response rates. Using the mobile channel to collect meaningful data on the patient’s experience enable healthcare organizations to more effectively diagnose dissatsifiers and make meaningful change.

Creating and Measuring Systemic Change

Access to satisfaction data from a broader patient population and larger sample size can help healthcare organizations gain more accurate and specific satisfactions insights. While the answers to the survey are valuable on a stand-alone basis, considering additional contextual data such as the time of day when the encounter occurred, the provider, the location, and the payer provide critical insights into potential systemic/process issues and support quality improvement initiatives. This data trended over time can also serve as a way to measure the effectiveness of these improvement initiatives.

Healthcare organizations and medical professionals agree on the value of satisfied patients and appreciate data that is representative and actionable. In today’s environment, survey response rates are generally low and not very timely making it difficult to draw conclusions and implement change. Using a “text-first” approach to obtaining patient feedback is one way to improve response rates, address specific patient issues and detect broader systemic issues.