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Articles of Interest

Designing an Effective Patient Survey

Measuring patient satisfaction is vital to the success of every practice. Here are the key components of a worthwhile survey.
By Craig Wagener, O.D., M.B.A., Ph.D., Sugarloaf Shores, Fla.

You don't have to be a Fortune 500 company to benefit from customer satisfaction surveys. They don't cost much and they require only a little of your time. Here are some tips for designing an effective survey.

A well-designed survey shouldn't take a patient more than 10 minutes to complete. Four to 6 minutes is ideal.

For example, one question you might ask is: "Was the staff courteous and efficient over the telephone?"

What Affects Patient Satisfaction?  

Patients' perceptions of quality are based on every contact they have with your practice. Unpleasant experiences with receptionists or clinical staff can turn patients away even if they're happy with you.

Factors that favorably influence patient satisfaction include:

Courteous and efficient telephone skills

Convenient appointment times

Friendly welcome upon entering the office

Pleasant office surroundings

Short waiting time

Professional office staff who have positive and helpful attitudes

Caring doctor who explains eye conditions and treatment options

Helpful, no-pressure sales staff

Adequate frame selection

Professional and accurate business transactions

Perception of value for the services received.

When you achieve overall excellence in all of these categories, customer satisfaction will result and a profitable practice will be a natural consequence.  


The continuum should range from positives, such as "most definitely" and "probably" to the negative equivalents of "not really" and "definitely not." It's best if the patient merely has to check one of 4 or 5 responses. Don't include a noncommittal response like "not sure." This doesn't give you any information.

These types of responses are easiest to tally. However, it's also a good idea to include one or more open-response questions. Some good open-ended questions are:

"Were you happy with the services our office provided?"

"Will you return to our office for care in the future?"

"Will you refer others to our practice?"

Request an explanation for negative answers.

This will keep staff members from feeling defensive or singled out.

Randomly select patients or give the survey to all patients who visit the practice over a period of a month or two.

Surveys should allow for anonymity so that patients don't have to worry about giving negative responses. This will encourage them to be honest. It's best to let patients take a printed survey home and return it to a locked suggestion box in your office, or you can provide a return postage-paid envelope.

Doing this ensures that staff members won't be tempted to discard negative responses about themselves.

Tally the responses and chart them using a simple bar graph. This makes it easy to see which factors patients perceive as most important.

Be especially tactful in communicating the results. Encourage staff to interpret negative results as constructive criticism. Balance the negative with the positive by showing your appreciation for favorable results.

I've improved my practice by training my staff better in response to a significant number of negative responses about unfriendly and inefficient staff.

I've also used patient surveys to assess the effectiveness of my advertising. Discovering what factors drive patients into the practice is vital in planning advertising or marketing strategies.

There's no end to what you can learn from patient surveys and how much you can improve. I consistently use surveys to keep both my staff and myself "on our toes," and my patient satisfaction levels have never been higher.

Dr. Wagener lives in Sugarloaf Shores, Fla., and practices part-time. He's president of a management and marketing consulting business.


Sample Patient Survey

Please complete this survey to help us improve our service to you. Please answer each question as honestly as possible. All information will be treated as strictly confidential.

A. Please rate the following factors in your selection of this office, using 1 as most important and 9 as least important.

[ ] Convenient location [ ] Competitive prices [ ] Appointments on short notice

[ ] Staff friendly on the phone [ ] Yellow Pages listing [ ] Referral from an existing patient

[ ] Reputation of the eye doctor

B. Please rate the quality of the products and services you received from our office. Circle the appropriate number using the scale below:

1. Strongly disagree
2. Disagree
3. Agree
4. Strongly agree

1. Reception staff members were friendly. 1 2 3 4

2. I got an appointment at a convenient time. 1 2 3 4

3. I was attended to promptly by efficient and helpful reception staff. 1 2 3 4.

4. The eye doctor was professional and understood my needs and concerns. 1 2 3 4

5. The eye doctor adequately explained the outcome of all the tests and the condition of my eyes. 1 2 3 4

6. The frame selection was big enough for me to find a style I liked. 1 2 3 4

7. I was happy with the services I received. 1 2 3 4

8. I am happy with the spectacles or contact lenses that were prescribed for me. 1 2 3 4

9. I plan to return to this office for future services. 1 2 3 4

10. I will refer others to this office. 1 2 3 4

C. Have you been examined in another optometric office before? [ ] Yes [ ] No
If yes, how do we compare in general terms?


D. Are you [ ] Male [ ] Female

E. Your age is [ ] 15-20 [ ] 21-40 [ ] 41-60 [ ] 61 and over

F. Please use the back of the form for any additional comments.

Thank you for helping us serve you better!

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