Gauging the Satisfaction of Your Medical Practice Employees

April 11, 2013

A step-by-step guide to performing an employee-satisfaction survey at your practice, plus nine sample questions to ask.

Last week I discussed an overview of how physicians/practice managers could diagnose and treat employee satisfaction issues in their medical practice. Let’s look a little closer at performing the employee-satisfaction survey.

There are a number of ways to perform a satisfaction survey. 

The best scenario is if you and your employees, either as a group or in departments, can have an open discussion about issues and solutions: Similar to a “survey” format, you would ask questions, and they would openly give feedback. To do this: Lay out the meeting agenda in advance, and make sure you include information for the employees about the purpose of the meeting. Also make sure you communicate that you are expecting complaints, but ask that employees try to keep it constructive and solutions-seeking.  Get a large white board and write down all of the issues. This will make it easier to write down any negative comments (for example, “I just don’t have time for taking thorough history and physical!”) into solution-seeking questions (for example, “How can arrange my routine to ensure that I have time to get the important aspects of the h&p completed before the doctor sees the patient?”).  And then brainstorm the solutions.

Now admittedly, if you can have an open dialogue with your employees, you likely aren’t having a satisfaction problem, at least not a broad one.  It is a good starting point to test the waters. If you don’t get sufficient results - for example, if you feel your employees are holding back from their true feelings - then there are some other employee-satisfaction survey options to explore. You could do any of these as a group or as a department:

1. The anonymous, pre-planned pen-and-paper survey: Plan a time to give the survey, and schedule it as a meeting. As soon as the meeting begins, explain what you would like to garner from the survey. Print a form with 10 or so questions, but leave them open, no multiple choice. Pass out the same pens, in the same color, to all your employees. Then, have them fill out the survey anonymously.  Leave the room while staff responds to their surveys. Have them drop off the paper surveys face down, and don’t pick them up until everyone is done.

2. The live-question pen-and-paper survey: Hold a meeting, give each employee 10 small pieces of paper. Make sure they each have the same color and type of pen, and ask each employee to answer the question as you go. When they are done, ask them to fold their pieces of paper and place them in a basket you send around the room. Write the questions and answers on a white board and discuss as a group right there or save the answers to the questions for your review post meeting, and have a second meeting in a week or so to review responses and solutions.

3. The online survey: The least personal way to conduct the survey, and also the least time-consuming, initially, would be to utilize a free service such as Survey Monkey or another similar site.  On Survey Monkey you can ask your employees 10 questions anonymously. Be sure to use the options where the employee can type in the response; if you use “yes or no” questions, ask them to elaborate.

Need some ideas for questions to ask?  These may not apply to your practice specifically, but will help get the wheels turning:

1. Overall, how satisfied are your working for this clinic?

2. Do you feel you have been given the tools needed to do your job successfully? Please elaborate.

3. What tools could help you perform your job better?

4. What areas could we improve patient flow? Claim payment? Collections? Phone scheduling?

5. What could we do to make this clinic better for the employees? Better for the patients?

6. In what ways could we better improve communication between managers and staff? Physicians and staff?

7. What do you like best about working in your department?

8. What kind of continuing education or training do you feel would help you do your job better?

9. Do you feel our patients are receiving the highest quality care? Why or Why not?

It is always best to determine your questions based on what you think might be the problem. You could also start your initial survey with very broad questions, then each month drill down a little deeper. You could make the survey a monthly occurrence, just one week prior to your monthly staff meeting. Pretty soon you will have an open dialogue, where the survey is no longer necessary. Just remember that things like employee satisfaction aren’t fixed overnight. It will take time, effort, and creative solutions to get your office back on track.

Have a practice management question? Let Audrey “Christie” McLaughlin, practice consultant and expert, help you out. Send your question to editor@physicianspractice.comand she’ll answer it in her weekly blog.