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Satisfaction Surveys in Radiology: How to Collect and Use Data

Satisfaction Surveys in Radiology: How to Collect and Use Data

The radiology department at Oregon Health and Science University needed better insights into patient satisfaction. And the hospital-wide surveys offered little information specific to the department. So administrators decided to invite patients in for a dialogue.

About a dozen patients, pulled together randomly with help from a consultant, showed up earlier this year to talk about their experiences with radiology.

“Patients from all walks of life came in and, no holds barred, expressed their opinions,” recalled Brock Price, interim director of Diagnostic Imaging Services at OHSU. 

Oregon’s experiment, which Price said may become an annual event for radiology and copied elsewhere in the hospital, is just one way radiology groups are assessing patient satisfaction.

Both patient and referring physician satisfaction surveys — either in-person interviews or online and print surveys — have grown in prominence in the past decade as the national healthcare agenda has focused increasingly on the quality of patient care. 

The method each radiology practice chooses to conduct these surveys depends in part on each one’s goals and budgets, said David L. Smith, executive of radexec.com, a consultant and business advisor to radiology practices and imaging center operators. Both paper and electronic surveys can be effective (and this format tends to be more common than OHSU’s approach), and each offers advantages, he said.

Choosing the right format

Standardized, Web-based forms require less staff time and can be useful for measuring trends. But they also tend to be less impactful than hand-written comments in terms of impressing physicians and staff. Paper forms, either mailed out or available in waiting rooms, should ask no more than four or five questions to maintain efficiency, he said.

With free-form comments, praise for a staff member can be used for rewards and motivation. They can be read out loud during staff meetings as positive feedback to a particular employee.  Quotes can be added to market materials, and Smith said he’s seen hospital TV ads featuring patients who have provided positive feedback. 

“That’s taking it to the extreme,” he said, “but it shows what potentially could be done.”

Smith said he would shy away from companies that offer structured, Web-based surveys, even if that means giving up the comparative data. Some practices, like those that are aware of specific problems, may decide the cost is worthwhile, but most imaging centers tend to be less concerned about comparisons with other practices and more with pleasing their customers, he said.

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