Convincing patients to respond to surveys is easier than you think

Oct 29, 2018

According to a survey, 86 percent of Americans say they would likely take a survey from a healthcare provider, if asked. Here are three ways to get them to actually respond to your survey.

Think patients won’t respond to healthcare surveys? Think again.

You might be surprised to learn that 86 percent of Americans say they would likely take a survey from a healthcare provider, if asked. A West survey of 1,036 adults in the United States showed patients are more open to taking surveys than most providers realize. This is encouraging news for providers who want to conduct patient satisfaction surveys, remote health monitoring surveys, health risk assessments, and other surveys.

There’s no question that healthcare surveys are valuable tools for improving healthcare and supporting health management. Providers believe it is useful to have patients complete satisfaction surveys (98 percent), health risk assessments (94 percent), remote monitoring surveys (91 percent), medication adherence surveys (94 percent), post-discharge surveys (91 percent), and gaps in care surveys (92 percent).

West’s research findings show patients value surveys nearly as much as providers. Patients are most interested in taking satisfaction surveys (86 percent), post-discharge surveys (85 percent), and health risk assessments (83 percent).

Yet despite their interest, patients don’t always participate in surveys, as healthcare teams know all too well. And nine in ten healthcare providers say their organization does only a fair or poor job convincing patients to actually complete surveys.

Patient feedback suggests healthcare teams can influence survey response rates and that there are steps providers can take to drive higher patient participation. In order to drive higher survey response rates, healthcare teams need to understand the factors that impact patients’ willingness to complete surveys. According to West’s survey findings, patient participation may hinge on convenience, whether patients feel a survey will help them manage their health, and if a survey will serve as a springboard for follow-up communication.

The following recommendations, based on West’s survey findings, show three key ways healthcare teams can grow response rates by focusing on factors patients say influence their decision to participate in surveys.

 

1. Make it convenient and easy for patients to respond.

Convenience is a must-have when trying to convince patients to complete surveys. Four in ten Americans (43 percent) say they would be more likely to take a survey from a healthcare provider if they could do it on their own time. This makes online surveys an attractive option for patients. Online surveys give patients the flexibility to respond when it is convenient for them, rather than receiving an unexpected call from a live person and being expected to stop what they are doing to answer survey questions.

In addition, one-third (33 percent) of patients say having the ability to take surveys from any device makes them more likely to participate. Patients prefer the convenience of being able to respond to surveys on a mobile device, tablet, or desktop. The takeaway is fairly obvious: if surveys are easy to take, patients are more likely to participate.

For most healthcare teams, inviting patients to complete online surveys means leveraging technology you might already be using. Teams can configure the same technology for sending reminders prior to appointments to deliver a satisfaction survey invitation to patients a few hours after their appointments.

 

2. Connect surveys to health management support.

Interest in surveys rises among patients when they understand how surveys will benefit them. More than four in ten patients (42 percent) report they would be more likely to take a survey if they knew how it would help with their treatment. Also, 39 percent of patients with chronic health conditions say they would be more apt to participate in a survey if they felt doing so would enable them and their healthcare team to better monitor their conditions. Taking time to explain to patients why they are being asked to respond to surveys and how their responses will be used can increase survey participation.

Remote health monitoring surveys give providers a way to check in with patients and track their progress between visits. These types of surveys are extremely useful for monitoring chronic conditions, and they allow healthcare teams to escalate cases or intervene before small issues turn into serious problems. Seventy-nine percent of patients say they are interested in health monitoring surveys.

Healthcare providers can give patients a nudge to complete surveys by presenting them as a necessary part of their chronic care plan. During office visits, patients should be given an explanation of the survey process. Letting patients know, for example, that they will be sent a weekly survey invitation and that staff will closely track their responses and any progress or changes is a good way to reinforce the connection between monitoring surveys and health management support.

Healthcare teams can also emphasize the connection between survey participation and support following hospitalizations. Providers can use post-discharge surveys to follow up with patients at key points in the 30 days after discharge. Communicating to patients how their healthcare team can utilize information they submit through surveys to detect issues and intervene to prevent readmissions is an effective way to drive survey participation. Forty percent of patients with chronic conditions say they would be more willing to take surveys if doing so would lessen their chances of being admitted or readmitted to the hospital. Healthcare teams that sell patients on this potential benefit of post-discharge surveys may be able to drive more participation.  

 

3. Follow through on follow-up.

Actions speak louder than words. Rather than just telling patients about the benefits or how surveys can help them, healthcare teams can go a step further and show patients with follow-up communication. Patients who spend time completing a survey want to hear from their healthcare team. Thirty-four percent of patients say they would be more likely to take a survey if they were contacted immediately afterward by a healthcare provider. In addition, patients say providers who follow up over the phone (37 percent) or via a text message or online chat (32 percent) would entice them to take surveys. While immediate follow-up is not necessary or appropriate in every situation, healthcare teams can make sure patients understand that they will be contacted promptly if follow-up is warranted.

By acting on survey data, healthcare providers can show patients they are engaged and committed to improving patients’ health. For instance, when patients complete a medication adherence survey and confess they are not taking their medication, providers can learn why-and find solutions to previously unknown medication barriers. Outreach following a medication adherence survey demonstrates providers’ commitment to keeping patients on track, and it can make patients even more responsive to future surveys.

Healthcare providers and patients agree that surveys can be valuable healthcare tools. But surveys are only useful if patients take them. It’s frustrating when patients don’t respond to survey invitations, and it hinders providers’ ability to deliver the between visit support patients say they want.

Rather than accepting that survey response for what they are, healthcare teams can take action to drive the changes they wish to see. They can drive more patient participation by taking patients’ requests to heart and ensuring that surveys are convenient, have clear health benefits, and are followed with additional communication.

Allison Hart is an advocate for utilizing technology-enabled communications to engage and activate patients beyond the clinical setting. Hart currently serves as vice president of marketing at West, where she leads thought leadership efforts for West’s TeleVox Solutions.

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