Asking for patient feedback

Not long ago, a chiropractor in the Midwest noticed that many of her regular patients weren’t showing up any longer. At first, she figured it was a seasonal thing (“It’s always hard to get patients to show up in winter…”). But when the weather improved, her PVA continued to decline.

When she was told about a couple of Internet “reviews” on superpages.com, she was shocked. There, for the entire web world to see, were three scathing comments about her office, posted within the prior two months. One commented on the “nasty woman at the front desk,” and the other about the “lack of concern from the office staff.” The third one clinched it: “Used to be a great place to go. Now, the receptionist named (name deleted) makes me feel like I’m just bothering her.”

The doctor did some backtracking and realized that the sudden drop off in patients started about six weeks after she hired her new CA. She’d never paid too much attention to the CA, since the woman – who had worked as a CA in a chiropractic office in California – seemed to be extremely efficient at record keeping, billing, etc.

The doctor wondered who the patients were and why they didn’t talk with her about the problem. Then it dawned on her: she never asked.

In fact, during her entire career, she never really solicited feedback from patients about their experience in the office. Yes, she took before and after x-rays and made sure she tracked their outcomes so she could monitor their progress. She asked about their health issues, taught them about subluxations, and made sure they understood that chiropractic was wellness care. But she never asked them about their experience in the office. Were they satisfied with the care they were receiving? Were their phone calls answered or returned quickly? Were they made to feel welcome in the office? Did they think the waiting room was too cold, dirty, messy or noisy? Were the office staff members professional and friendly? Were the waiting times too long?

These questions are just as important to our practice as the standard “how are you feeling today?” But unless you ASK, patients usually won’t tell you. Instead, they’ll leave your office without a word of complaint, but never come back. Even worse, they’ll post their complaints on sites like Superpages, Healthgrades, RateMds or Angie’s List. In the past, a few comments from disgruntled patients might have gone unnoticed, but not today.

Research has shown that at least half of all patients now find their providers online and often check out one of the ratings websites to read “reviews” about the doctor. Healthgrades.com, for instance, logs more than seven million hits each month, and who’s going to go to a DC with a rating of two stars?

The solution is to be pro-active: ask for patient feedback. Hand out a “quickcard,” a short patient satisfaction survey. The ones used in the VA system can be easily customized for your office. Patients can take the card home and mail it back anonymously, or provide their name for a call back if needed. You can go a step further and send random patients a confidential questionnaire in the mail asking about their most recent experience in your office. The Patient Satisfaction Survey prepared by the Department of Health and Human Services is a good example of the type of questions you can ask.

If you get a few complaints, act on them. If one person actually complains about something, chances are 10 others were annoyed by it but didn’t speak up.

Also, monitor online review sites and set up a Google search alert for your name and your office name. You’ll get an e-mail when content is posted that contains those names.

Nobody likes to get negative feedback, but it’s the best way to know how your patients feel – and improve their experiences in your office.

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Comments

this is true, asking them will give you idea’s on what are your weaknesses and strength, and you can improve those things.

I agree with the first commenter, it is very important to know what are the feedbacks of your patients.

Terry,
I came across your article on AA this am and found it insightful and right on 
From your post it appears that you live/work in the SD area. I just moved here (SD) from Laguna Beach and would love to collaborate with you. I am an author have worked in the fired of human services for over 20 years.
Shoot me an email at the address listed in this post and perhaps we can set something up.
W/warm Aloha

I was in a physician office that used ServeYouBetter.com and I even used it once to make a suggestion. It was nice to have that option.

Ryan

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