June 10, 2005

Patient satisfaction survey system speeded

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Patient satisfaction survey system speeded

Elevate, the wide-ranging improvement effort launched late last year at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, has prompted a new process for tracking patient satisfaction.

For years VUMC has mailed patient satisfaction questionnaires to nearly all inpatients and a significant sample of outpatients (or their parents), but the results of these surveys were lagging about three months behind dates of service.

Beginning July 1, VUMC will switch to a telephone-based survey conducted by Professional Research Consultants, better known as PRC.

As noted by Ronald W. Hill, vice president for Strategic Development, and Denise G. Rabalais, associate director of market research, the new survey method will be far faster and more efficient, with outpatient results available within a week of service and inpatient results available within two weeks of discharge. Results will be posted on a secure Web site.

Patient satisfaction scores will be an important item on leaders' monthly report cards. Beginning in July, about 300 VUMC leaders will begin to be evaluated, and eventually compensated, based on progress toward achieving elevate goals.

“As in the past, we hope to be able to use the survey results to inform hospital units and clinics about how patients experience care received in their area,” Hill said. Sampling methods will be used, with strategically vital areas being surveyed more intensively than other areas.

In making the change, Vanderbilt consulted with and reviewed various survey methods used by institutions such as Mayo Clinic, Johns Hopkins, Cleveland Clinic, Duke and the University of California at San Francisco.

The new method will allow Vanderbilt to compare itself against benchmarks derived from the approximately 1,500 hospitals in the PRC customer group. Also, PRC reveals the top performing institutions for various aspects of patient satisfaction and describes how these institutions achieved success.

The survey will include some open-ended questions, and in addition to providing a verbatim report the vendor will code and summarize these responses. “I think patient comments are as valuable as the quantitative results,” Hill said.

In all, PRC will field seven questionnaires for VUMC: adult inpatient, pediatric inpatient, adult ED, pediatric ED, ambulatory surgery, Vanderbilt Medical Group physician office visit, and outpatient technical services (e.g., CT scan).

To meet a five-minute limit on the phone call, survey questions will be fewer than with the mailed VUMC survey, and most questions will be re-worded to allow comparison to PRC's benchmark figures.

Hill said it will take at least three months for enough responses to build up to allow clinicians to see results for their individual practice.

For more information, call Rabalais at 936-6066.