The healthcare industry is constantly evolving alongside the advancement and availability of technology…

Social media is finally gaining traction as a useful tool for engaging with current and prospective patients.

Medical histories of patients are being transferred to online platforms through Electronic Health Records (EHRs).

Medical histories of patients are being transferred to online platforms through Electronic Health Records (EHRs).

And, providers are beginning to monitor data analytics related to patients and physicians to help improve safety and performance.

Now more than ever, there is increased attention being paid to medical data that can be measured and analyzed. One of the key benefits of this data is using it to strengthen the level of engagement between physicians and their patients. But, not all data is created equal and can be used for this purpose.

Unbiased collection methods

Without a method of evaluation, it can be tough to determine the level of engagement between physicians and patients. That’s where patient surveys come in to start collecting data.

It’s important to remember that the surveys have to be completely unbiased. If not, the data can lead to poor insights and leave out patient engagement entirely. So, you might ask, what makes patient surveys unbiased?

A good starting point is to make sure they are not only created by a third party, but are also distributed outside of the office. Failing to have a third party create the surveys will always produce limited results. They’re going to possess questions that only the providers see fit, and will guide patients to give answers they want to receive.

It’s equally important to make sure that patients are filling out the surveys on their own time outside of the office. It gives them a chance to fully digest and think about how their visit went. If they do it in the office, they’re obviously going to give positive feedback when the doctor hands them a shiny tablet to fill out the survey with a lollipop to enjoy while they complete it.

Not to mention, while they’re completing the survey in the office, the physician is missing out on an opportunity to actually engage with the patient.

Compiling the right data

The survey data collected should go beyond general questions like, “Are you happy with your provider?”. Those vague types of questions are not enough to capture the physician-patient relationship.

The questions that need to be asked must be formed in alliance with real practicing doctors, those who know what it’s like to listen to and engage with patients. Questions with regard to decision making, understanding of choices made, and emotional empathy are  great jumping off points. That way, when the patients fill out their surveys, the resulting data will truly be valuable. Getting data back that contains results such as, “I’m happy with my provider” or, “I’m not happy with my provider” isn’t providing meaningful information.

Another key component of the surveys is that they need to be specialty-specific. While some aspects of engagement are going to be universal across the board, there are distinct differences from one healthcare specialty to another. That means questions about engagement, which will vary.

Let’s say you have an appointment with your cardiologist about an issue you’ve been having and afterwards you receive a patient survey about that visit. Then, in a few weeks, you have another appointment with your otolaryngologist regarding a clogged ear. You also receive a patient survey after that visit. Don’t you think those two visits should have varying questions regarding your engagement with your doctor? We sure hope so.

Motivation to treat patients the way they want to be treated

Once healthcare providers have their data collection system in place with the above advice taken into account, physicians will be more inclined to monitor and perhaps change behavior based on their patients’ feedback.

While they may have thought they had a good grasp on their level of engagement with patients before, hard data will reassure them, prove them wrong, and ultimately send them down a path to positive growth.

They will be able to access a growing database of feedback from their patients to see how they actually feel. Rather than relying solely on their own perspective, they’ll have plenty of meaningful opinions to consider. It is always good to understand how our behaviors and tone are perceived by others.

With all of this to consider, it may just seem like one more thing on the list for physicians to worry about. In fact, it is quite the opposite.

The essence of collecting patient experience data is to create a culture of quality improvement within healthcare. A culture in which providers can leverage data to focus on care and implement evidence based decision making to improve physician-patient relationships as well as overall performance.

It doesn’t mean that doctors have to please every single one of their patients. It’s really all about listening to what they have to say, keeping them informed and making them feel comfortable to be open about their health.

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Jessica Ritter – VP of Sales – SE HealthcareJessica brings over 14 years of experience in medical sales and business development to SE Healthcare Quality Consulting. She most recently served as VP of Strategic Development for a prominent health and wellness consulting company in Mechanicsburg, PA formulated to help organizations improve their health and productivity.

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