Archive March 2017 XVIII, No. 3

Ideas That Work: Boost Your Patient Satisfaction Survey Return Rate

patient satisfaction survey HOW'D WE DO? Shortening the patient satisfaction survey, awarding giveaways and letting patients take surveys online dramatically improved the Center for Specialty Surgery's return rate.

Boost Your Patient Satisfaction Survey Return Rate

Patient-satisfaction surveys provide a wealth of truly valuable information. The big challenge is getting patients to fill them out and return them. We were getting feedback from only 20% of our patients until we decided to look for ways to do better. Now we're up to a 50% return rate, and we've set a goal of 70%. Here's how we did it.

The improvements we made fall into 3 general categories: We gave patients more options. We made the survey itself much more manageable. And we created an incentive for patients to fill them out.

  • Online option. Instead of relying on simply handing a survey to patients, who may be groggy and distracted after a procedure, we now provide several ways for patients to receive and return the survey. In addition to mailing surveys back, patients can fill them out online and return them via email, or they can fill them out at their doctors' offices, where we make sure we provide copies. Also, by collecting patients' email addresses, we can gently remind them to complete their surveys.
  • Shorter survey. We also took a hard look at the survey we'd been using and realized we were in danger of overwhelming patients with the number of questions we were asking. So we boiled everything down to 7 questions on a 1-to-10 numerical rating scale (down from about 25) that cover all the essential areas. You can download our satisfaction survey at
  • Giveaway. We also started randomly selecting a "patient of the month" from among those who return the survey, and awarded each winner a $100 gift card for doing so.

Is it all worth it? Absolutely. We're now much better able to benchmark our performance compared to other facilities, both statewide and nationally. Plus, I can use the comments in weekly staff meetings — either to say good job, or to talk about things that have happened, but that need to not happen again (without mentioning names, of course). We think we're also getting ahead of the game, knowing that reimbursement rates will eventually be connected to patient satisfaction. Most importantly, the feedback we're getting is helping us provide the best possible care for our patients.

James McClung, BSN, RN
Center for Specialty Surgery
Austin, Texas

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