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How to conduct healthcare surveys

Did you know that two-thirds of senior-level healthcare professionals say they send patient satisfaction surveys to get feedback?

And 86% of patients who receive feedback surveys are happy to take them? But that’s not all. According to our research, healthcare professionals use surveys to improve many aspects of their medical organization, from measuring employee engagement to diagnosing their patient safety culture.

But if you’re conducting healthcare assessment surveys, the feedback you collect can only help you improve your organization if you get accurate data that’ll give you actionable results. Not sure where to start when it comes to writing healthcare survey questions? SurveyMonkey’s got your back.

What do you want to know? You might conduct healthcare assessment surveys to check in on patients after office visits to minimize unnecessary follow-up appointments. But a follow-up survey will be very different than one measuring how comfortable your nursing staff feel about implementing new state regulations. Use these sample healthcare assessment survey templates and question-writing tips to ensure the quality of your data.

The best sample healthcare surveys don’t just ask for useful information—they do so in a way that helps respondents answer accurately and honestly. But how do you do that? SurveyMonkey’s team of experts removes the mystery for you. Follow these healthcare survey tips from our survey scientists to enable survey takers to say exactly what they mean.

The best surveys start with a clear goal. It determines who you survey—and what and how you ask. For example, if your goal is, “I want to track and monitor patient health between their appointments,” you might use a post-visit patient satisfaction survey that is limited to questions that help you achieve that goal—so you only collect relevant information.

If you need to conduct healthcare surveys during an office visit, have patients answer questions on a tablet in the waiting room. For matters that are less time-sensitive, you can survey patients and employees through email, social media, or your website.

Most people are willing to answer critical or embarrassing questions honestly if they know their responses will stay private. If the results will be anonymous, tell this clearly to your respondents before they begin the survey. Also remind them that if you are collecting certain kinds of health information, HIPAA protects their privacy.

Here are tips and tricks to writing good healthcare assessment survey questions. Follow these guidelines to make sure you’re sending accurate example healthcare questionnaires so you conduct healthcare surveys that yield good data.

Engage respondents early by starting with simple questions, such as “Our records show that you got care from your healthcare provider. Is that right?”

Beginning your healthcare polls with an example survey question like this also helps you weed out those whose feedback is not relevant to your goal, and ensures you are surveying the right group. Cluster related questions together. Build trust by waiting to ask about sensitive issues—such as illegal drug use—until later.

Careful word choice eliminates guesswork both for your survey takers, and for you, when you analyze responses. Remove ambiguity by watching out for these pitfalls:

  • Avoid jargon when surveying patients or other laypersons. If you must use medical lingo, define it simply.
  • Eliminate unclear qualifiers. For example, don’t merely ask patients whether they exercise “often.” Tell them “often” means “at least three times per week.”
  • Avoid inquiring about undefined time periods. When asking how frequently respondents do something, define a time period appropriate to your goals. For instance, if you are a dentist trying to learn about the daily hygiene of your regular patients, you might ask a respondent how many times within the past 12 months he has visited your office, and then ask how many times within the past week he has brushed his teeth.

The way healthcare assessment survey questions are worded can influence how people answer them. To be sure your respondents can say what they mean, keep an eye out for these common mistakes.

Don’t bias your respondents by using emotionally charged language or phrases that imply you want to hear a certain answer. It’s better to ask neutrally what a patient thinks of your newly automated appointment confirmation system than to say, “Our new appointment confirmation system makes it easier to schedule visits. How helpful have you found it to be?”

Asking about two issues at once can be confusing. For example, “Is your prescription affordable, and do you remember to take it every day? Yes or No?” If a patient can answer yes to one question and no to the other, neither reply tells his doctor what she needs to know about barriers to his care.

Surveys provide an opportunity for patients, employees, and others to give difficult feedback that might otherwise go unmentioned. Show them you welcome that input by including both positive and negative options in the question wording.
For example, “Over the course of your stay at this hospital, were you satisfied with the care you received, dissatisfied with the care you received, or neither satisfied nor dissatisfied with it?” Voicing the negative possibility shows you do not presume a positive response.

Don’t ask sample survey questions that fail to isolate the information you really want to learn. If you need to know whether a patient has continued experiencing the back pain he mentioned in his recent appointment, asking “How do you feel since our meeting? Better or worse?” will not tell you specifically about his back.

Whether or not you use open-ended survey questions—those that ask survey takers to answer in their own words—depends on what kind of information you seek, and what you intend to do with it. These questions are more taxing for respondents, so they often get skipped. They also produce data that is harder to quantify and share.

For example, if you want to show stakeholders how satisfied your patients are, it is easiest to cite a clear statistic from a closed question, such as, “91% of our patients said they would recommend us to family and friends.” But open-ended questions have their place. They are best for allowing respondents to explain why they answered another question as they did, or to add feedback on topics not covered by the example healthcare assessment survey.

Some of your survey results will be self-explanatory, but not all of them. If only 11% of your patients say they are “very satisfied” with your hospital, but over 90% say either that they are “satisfied,” “somewhat satisfied,” or “very satisfied,” should you celebrate?

Figure out what your data means by giving yourself an internal benchmark. Repeat the online healthcare poll later to compare the results. If your “very satisfied” category grows, you know you’re on the right track.

You might also measure your results against an external benchmark. With SurveyMonkey Benchmarks, you can compare your survey results against data from others in your industry.

Designed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, this survey asks patients questions from appointment scheduling convenience to provider communication skills.

Get a year-long view of patient satisfaction with this template, designed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

To understand how beneficiaries feel about their health plans, this survey asks them about everything from the availability of specialists to how much paperwork they do.

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