Make Patients Happy: A Simple Alternative to Patient Satisfaction Surveys

By Dr. J. Gnanaraj and Ms. Danita Gnanaraj

How do you keep your patients happy? The Medical Group Management Association (MGMA) published a report showing that almost 80 percent of better-performing practices used surveys to measure patient satisfaction (1). These practices also used surveys more often than others. Surveys improve communication with patients and may increase patient retention – and some countries even require patient surveys to be taken.

There are several factors to consider while doing a patient satisfaction survey. Brevity, clarity and consistency are considered very important, among the many factors that are to be considered while doing the surveys (2).

Pulse evaluationHowever, carrying out surveys can cost both money and time. We describe a simple method that we used in the mission hospital to replace our extensive 26-question patient satisfaction survey. It involves the use of the patients’ pulse rates, measured at the beginning by the nurses recording the vital signs, then measured again after the doctors’ consultation and another measurement at the exit interview time.

The Method

In the first phase of the study, patient satisfaction surveys were carried out by nurses from CMC Vellore and nursing students from Burrows Memorial Christian Hospital. The surveys were based on the experiences at various counters of the hospital, and the patients’ pulse rates were checked both before and after the various parts of their visits, like being examined by the doctors, at the laboratory, at the preliminary examination counters where the patients interact with the nursing staff, and so on.

All of the surveys were carried out at the end of the day, but independent evaluators checked the patients’ pulse rates at each counter or place before and after each visit. The results were analyzed to determine the correlations (3).

In the second part of the study, we reviewed the data from the electronic records of the in-patients at the mission hospital in Assam. The system had a 26-question patient satisfaction survey randomly printed out for 10% of the admissions, using a random number table that the computer system chooses, when it prints out the forms along with IP charts. The survey results were then compared with the initial recorded pulse rates by the nurses entering the vital signs and the last recorded pulse rate in the chart.

In the third part of the study, the pulse rate at the vital signs entry and after the patients are told about the recommended surgical procedure was compared with their consent for the procedures.

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