The dos and don’ts of building a better survey

Parkside Associates of Park Ridge, IL, has developed a tool, calledHome Healthcare Quality of Care Monitor, that evaluates patient satisfaction by using language that patients can easily understand and by asking questions that will give agencies reliable and measurable responses.

The company offers home care agencies hints for how to improve a patient satisfaction survey:

Do ask questions that allow patients to rate the home care staff according to the patient’s expectations.

An example would be to ask patients, "Did the staff arrive in a timely manner for home visits? — Never, Rarely, Sometimes, Often, Always." This type of question and choice of answers can prevent the patient from feeling confused or limited in his/her response.

Don’t ask the patient to rate staff’s technical skills.

The patient would have difficulty responding unless he or she has already had training in this area. Instead, ask, "Did the staff seem to know what they were doing?"

Don’t use choices of "Very Poor, Poor, Fair, Good, Very Good."

Parkside’s research has shown that home health patients tend to rate patient satisfaction more positively than patients in other types of health care. It’s important to give home health patients more positive choices to distinguish true excellence from good performance. The better set of responses would be "Poor, Fair, Good, Very Good, Excellent."

(Editor’s note: Jerry Seibert, MA, president of Parkside Associates, wrote an article that discusses patient satisfaction survey guidelines for CARING magazine’s October 1996 issue. The article is titled "Patient focus with an eye on the bottom line: Using patient surveys for quality improvement." Parkside Associates’ customer survey services begin at $600.)