Why Surveys are Essential to Improving the Patient Experience

9/21/2022 Nicholas Michel

Why Surveys are Essential to Improving the Patient Experience

Emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic, consumer preferences have altered the healthcare industry in a variety of ways, including: increased in-home care and telehealth visits, tailored patient services, and a pivot toward value-based care. With 85% of consumers finding personalized care important, patient experience should now be a key provider benchmark used to inform strategy across the board.

Today’s consumers are highly active advocates for their own mental and physical health. Understanding their new preferences, personalizing care toward individual patient needs, and driving deeper connections within the community are all critical if healthcare providers hope to remain competitive.

How can you determine if there are gaps or overlooked opportunities in your patients’ experiences? By asking them.

The importance of surveys in healthcare

The Net Promoter Score (NPS) is a commonly-cited data point for companies, and ultimately highlights how likely a customer would be to recommend your organization to a colleague or friend. 

While the NPS is an important indicator of patient loyalty, it doesn’t tell the full story. At RRD, we recommend using it in conjunction with other metrics to determine more detailed parameters, such as patient satisfaction, intent, perception, and behavior. 

Targeted surveys are an effective way to obtain key insights on everything from brand perception to high-priority consumer satisfaction. In the healthcare sector, directly surveying your patients can provide valuable insights that:

  • Inform providers of potential health outcomes
  • Reveal patient satisfaction levels
  • Validate and accelerate care strategies

Surveys can also help providers quickly adapt to changes in patient attitude, behavior, motivations and expectations in real-time — all based on actual patient data. 

Keys to a well-executed survey

A successful survey is first dependent upon a provider’s ability to carry out four key phases of survey management:

1. Survey creation 

In survey creation, asking the right questions and getting the right audience to participate are critical for success. It’s important to ask: 

  • What is our intent?
  • What do we want to know about our patients?
  • What survey questions will generate the most meaningful data?

This phase involves survey ideation, defining survey intent, and then creating the actual survey to drive said intent and impact.

2. Optichannel execution 

This phase includes the visual design and presentation of the survey, including preferred channel distribution. Online surveys are often distributed via email, QR code, or link. Direct mail distribution — a traditional and effective offline channel — will also include printing, kitting, and mailing. 

3. Return management 

Confidently fielding incoming survey responses will require the proper infrastructure. In our experience, a return mail center and dedicated PO box play important roles. From here, scanning and tabulating results can begin.

4. Reporting and analysis 

In this final phase, data-driven insights will become available following an analysis of the totality of results. Additionally, providers should consider building a repository over time to track changes and trends in patient behavior, motivations, expectations, etc.

Two common survey types for healthcare providers

Surveys can be trigger-based, or contingent upon a life event or particular experience taking place (e.g., a patient entering retirement, recovering from a specific operation, or visiting a clinic for the first time). These surveys can be deployed more frequently and be acutely focused, containing only two to three questions. This can enable providers to be highly proactive toward specific patient segments. 

Alternatively, calendar-based surveys are typically preceded by a certain event or milestone, such as an annual survey to measure general brand perception. As these are less frequently deployed, they may contain a larger number of questions.

CASE STUDY: RRD’s end-to-end survey management provides annual insights 
to support client’s growth, inform product enhancements

Executing an effective survey strategy

Ideally, a well-executed survey will yield a comprehensive database of analytics that can be used to inform effective, data-based business decisions. Surveys can also result in predictive models indicating flee factors, high-risk segments, and high-propensity segments across the healthcare sector. 

When developing your patient survey strategy, be mindful of:

  • Survey deployment frequency: not overwhelming respondents, but still acting quickly based on relevant triggers
  • How often you are targeting the same respondents
  • Tone and language — ensuring adherence to brand standards 
  • Providing a compelling “why” for patients to participate. Incentives such as gift cards, service discounts, or freemiums can be great ways to entice respondent participation, and can increase response rates by 10-15%

In the end: the best way to improve patient experience is to go directly to the source. In an ever-changing healthcare landscape, it’s more critical than ever to not only know your consumer base, but to also know where they stand. Expertly designed and executed surveys provide rich first-party data that can help you navigate improvements to the patient experience while driving efficiencies and value within your healthcare system.

Dive deeper into the topic of patient safety in the blog on United Ad Label’s website:
Top 10 Patient Safety Concerns 2023


Nicholas Michel is the Director of Research Strategy and Growth for the Data, Insights, and Customer Engagement (DICE) group at RRD

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