Wye Valley osteopath Stuart Kramer shares the experiences in his practice …
After conducting two patient feedback exercises by post, we placed a patient questionnaire permanently on our practice website.
We felt that this would make the questionnaire easily accessible, and we were interested to see what effect it would have on the response rate.
We used Wufoo (www.wufoo.com), a self-design online questionnaire tool, which was easy and free to do. It’s not limited by size at all – you can include as many questions as you like. And it only took our website designer an hour or two to embed it on our website.
The questionnaire is anonymous, although the patient can choose to leave their name. When patients do leave their name, we always contact them to thank them for completing the questionnaire. If anyone gave negative answers or left criticisms, we would aim to get in touch to discuss this with them, but to date it hasn’t happened: generally, people rate all aspects of their experience as ‘excellent’ or ‘’very good’.
We don’t do any number-crunching of the feedback we receive through the questionnaire, but Wufoo enables users to sort and filter the information, and to export it to spreadsheet software such as Excel – making it easier to analyse the data than it would be using a paper questionnaire.
When we conducted our earlier patient feedback exercises by post, we sent questionnaires to all patients we saw over a two-week period. The response rate was 40 per cent.
In contrast, the online questionnaire has to date been promoted only to new patients and generally not to existing ones (apart from via a leaflet in the practice waiting room), resulting in a lower rate of response.
It may be that, although patients look for information on the website before they come for treatment, they are less likely to revisit the website following treatment –the time when we would like them to complete the questionnaire – unless we prompt them.
Also, in our practice we always encourage patients to contact us at any point if there’s anything they want to discuss. Possibly our patients don’t feel the need to complete a questionnaire as well.
To try to gather more responses, we are now collecting patients’ email addresses so that we can be sent post-appointment reminders about the questionnaire.
We’re hopeful that the response rate will increase in the future anyway, particularly as people are generally becoming increasingly used to reviewing and rating things online on sites such as TripAdvisor.
However you collect your patients’ comments and opinions, they have no value unless you reflect on the feedback and use it to develop your practice. Although the feedback we received has been consistently positive, it has still helped to inform how we interact with our patients.
Patients tended to ‘agree’ but not ‘strongly agree’ that they were giving consent to treatment. This prompted us to review how we asked patients for their consent. We now offer to give them a completed ‘What we talked about: our understanding of you’ sheet if they want it.
Your ability to derive value from your patients’ feedback will, of course, depend on the questions you ask them. When gathering patient feedback for the first time, we looked at questionnaires in use elsewhere, but felt that these did not meet our needs. We wanted to gather information that was specific to our practice, so we simply asked questions that we wanted the answers to.
Our questionnaire consists of 16 questions across three themes: ‘making an appointment’, ‘visiting the practice’ and ‘treatment outcome’.
You can read it at: www.osteopaths-online.co.uk/feedback/
The questionnaire also gives patients an opportunity to post general comments and suggestions, some of which are posted in the ‘testimonials’ section of our practice website. If you want to use your patients’ feedback in this way but your feedback mechanism allows comments to be made anonymously (making it impossible for you to gain the patient’s consent for publication), it is good practice to make it clear when inviting feedback that you may publish it – and to give the patient the opportunity to ask you not to.
At present we do not publish aggregated information about patient satisfaction, but we do share the patient feedback we receive with our local CPD group, so that other osteopaths can use it to reflect on their own practice.
We are in no doubt about the value of the information we have collected; we would certainly encourage other osteopaths to collect feedback from their patients. As for the best way of collecting it, just choose a method that you think your patients will use, and make sure they are aware of it.
Why not share your experiences of collecting patient feedback.