The Dos and Don’ts of Building Surveys for Healthcare Providers

Patients have more say in their own medical treatment than ever before. Thanks to their instant access to everything from provider ratings to emergency room wait times, healthcare patients are making more informed choices. But they are also treating the improvement in patient-provider communication as a two-way street. In fact, they are willing to share their opinions, insights, and valuable data if it helps improve their healthcare experiences. That is where healthcare provider surveys play a critical role.

Research from West Corporation shows that a significant majority (86%) of participants would agree to fill out a healthcare provider survey at the request of their physician. That’s a substantial percentage. It reveals that patients want to play an active part in their health and wellness. Yet healthcare provider survey recipients aren’t just limited to patients. For instance, some organizations like the Primary Care Development Corporation in New York use healthcare provider surveys to gauge clinicians’ knowledge or concerns. Others use surveys to uncover technology gaps or identify internal workflow issues.

Overcoming Obstacles With Healthcare Provider Surveys

Why don’t more individual providers, hospital groups, insurers, and other stakeholders make full use of healthcare provider surveys? In many cases, it’s because they aren’t sure how to overcome a few key challenges.

Perhaps the biggest challenge of all is ensuring that any survey regarding healthcare is compliant with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA. It’s imperative to follow all HIPAA regulations and expectations when collecting, storing, and using survey data. Another challenge is ensuring that the data collected is accurate. Survey participants may be reluctant to be forthright, especially if the survey isn’t anonymous.

A final challenge is the possibility that the survey results won’t be valid because not enough people responded. Without enough data points, a survey’s results could be highly skewed. Surveys need a certain number of responses for their results to be statistically significant.

7 Tips for Building and Deploying a Healthcare Provider Survey

Despite the problems that can accompany surveying, potential surveyors shouldn’t be dissuaded from disseminating healthcare provider surveys. Providers can make these types of surveys more valuable to all parties by following some simple dos and don’ts.

1. Do have a purpose for the survey.

Participants will be more willing to take any healthcare provider survey if they can see that there is a purpose behind it. Providers should communicate to patients what they intend to learn from the survey so they see the value in completing it.

2. Don’t make the survey too long.

The longer a survey is, the more likely it will be put on the back burner—and maybe forgotten. Whether it’s a digital or paper survey, it should be whittled down to include only the most pertinent inquiries. There is nothing wrong with sending out lengthier surveys in some situations, but a good rule is to make sure a survey doesn’t take more than 10 minutes to finish.

3. Do vet software companies to ensure they offer HIPAA-compliant survey solutions.

A HIPAA-compliant survey protects patient data covered by HIPAA. It protects the surveying party, too. Not all digital tools are set up with HIPAA compliance in mind. Find one that follows HIPAA’s stringent rules.

4. Don’t ask the same question 100 different ways.

We have all taken questionnaires that seem repetitive. It can feel like a waste of time and attention. Avoid repeating questions in any healthcare provider survey unless absolutely necessary. If a question sounds similar and must be repeated, consider making it optional to answer.

5. Do test different methods.

There are tons of survey methods to choose from, so it’s worth testing different ones. For instance, much older patients may be less comfortable with online surveys. Interviews, panels, telephone calls, and even pop-up survey kiosks are other valuable methods of collecting data. Also, consider the format of the questions. Short-answer questions are time-consuming, but multiple-choice questions are relatively easy to answer.

6. Don’t shelve the insights.

A survey shouldn’t end when the responses are in. The insights obtained should be used for their intended purpose. Take a survey sent to a provider’s patient base. If the goal of the survey is to find ways to improve the patient experience, the surveyor should be ready to put the feedback into action. Asking people to complete a survey and then doing nothing with it gives them no incentive to fill out future surveys.

7. Do have patience with the survey process.

Whether a provider is sending a survey to patients, other providers, staff, or everyone in a community, it may need to experiment with the survey type, format, and cadence and make adjustments from time to time. Updating and revisiting surveys is a normal part of the surveying process.

It has never been easier (or more essential) to leverage healthcare provider surveys to improve care and address patients’ concerns. Yes, there are challenges to overcome. But they can be bypassed by developing a thoughtful, HIPAA-compliant form.

Chad Reid
VP of marketing and communications at

Chad Reid is the VP of marketing and communications at Jotform; he’s a frequent contributor to various tech and business publications — and an absolute wizard with a Vitamix.

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