Surveying Patients For Practice Feedback

November 29, 2010

If we were going to launch our new endeavor, I had to first figure out a few things. I set about determining what my sister’s existing practice was all about. This required a two step approach: 1) Interviewing the staff, and 2) Interviewing the patients. The goal was to get a better understanding of the pros and cons of Life Wellness, what makes it unique, the challenges presented, and what each group thought should be its direction for the future.

I moved to Fresno in August 2009 and began working with my sister at her existing clinic, Life Wellness Medical Center. If we were going to launch our new endeavor, I had to first figure out a few things. The question was where to start. Using my previous experience helping companies determine their corporate strategy (although focused on tax issues, the experience was still relevant) I set about determining what my sister’s existing practice was all about. 

This required a two step approach: 1) Interviewing the staff, and 2) Interviewing the patients. The goal was to get a better understanding of the pros and cons of Life Wellness, what makes it unique, the challenges presented, and what each group thought should be its direction for the future.

The staff was a little hesitant at first, because although they knew I was coming to help with the business, they weren’t sure what that meant for them. However, by talking with them, their fears were allayed. They had a better understanding of where my sister and I wanted to take the practice and why and what roll they can have in that direction. Talking to them about their roles served two purposes: 1) I wanted to let them know that their role is important and valued, and 2) I was able to gain their trust and insight more easily.

Getting feedback from the patients also presented a challenge at first. How do I get feedback from a patient panel of 2,500 in a manner that I can gauge and derive some sort of meaning? At the same time, how do I subtly let patients know changes are coming and pique their interest?

The answer was simple - a survey. A survey would allow me to capture their thoughts as data points and would create the opportunity for conversation. The opportunity for conversation is how we could engage the patients about the who, what, where, why, and how. I started with an intro paragraph about the purpose of the survey. Then we included some open ended questions. I hoped that would get the patients to start thinking about healthcare, what their perceived healthcare needs are, and how they could be met.

The second part of the survey was designed to introduce potential new services and offerings, and, I hoped, subtly introduce and excite our patients about what is coming. I was hoping they would go back and tell their friends something like, “My doctor had me take a survey today. She asked what we liked about the practice, what we didn’t like…. I’ve never had a doctor ask me that before… and I think she is starting acupuncture or going to start a weight loss program because the survey asked if that’s what I wanted…”

Since we have about 500 to 600 appointments a month, some of them are of the same person (follow-ups), I figured I could get about 250 to 300 responses, which would represent 10 percent of our patient panel. Ten percent may not be much, but it may also represent our most active patient population. So what kind of response did I get? I’ll write more about that in next month’s post, so stay tuned.

Aamer Hayat joined his sister, Dr. Unaiza Hayat, in August of 2009 to help her develop, manage, and grow avecinia wellness center. Aamer has seven years of corporate tax and business consulting experience with Deloitte & Touche. He has also consulted or worked with several not-for-profit and for-profit enterprises ranging from free medical clinics to fashion labels. He is an occasional contributor to Practice Notes.