How to use patient satisfaction surveys to improve your allergy practice

January 30, 2020

How to use patient satisfaction surveys to improve your allergy practice

As an allergist, you know satisfied patients are key to the success of your practice. But do you take steps to actively measure and improve patient satisfaction?

In a recent Medical Group Management Association (MGMA) Stat Poll, 82% of respondents said their practice conducts patient satisfaction surveys. And our informal poll of College Practice Management Committee members indicated that nine out of 14 members, or 64%, conduct patient satisfaction surveys.

Do you know why and how to do patient surveys, and what to do with the results? We’ve got survey how-to’s, as well as the inside scoop from Practice Management Committee members on how allergy practices use these surveys to improve.

Patient Satisfaction Survey Quick Tips

  1. Make it short and simple.
  2. Take advantage of technology.
  3. Aim for a 10-20% response rate.
  4. Make it anonymous – but give patients an option to provide their name if they’d like to be contacted.
  5. Always ask: what could we have done better? Would you recommend our practice to your family and friends?
  6. Focus on improving patient experience.
  7. Share results with providers and staff.
  8. Communicate improvements to patients.
  9. Survey regularly with a goal of continuous improvement.


The Why

Patient satisfaction surveys help allergy practices find out how they’re doing – and what their patients want. You can’t fix problems you don’t know about, so a proactive approach to improving patient experience is essential to your practice’s success. Another bonus? If you’re participating in the Merit-based Incentive Payment System (MIPS), doing regular patient satisfaction surveys counts as an Improvement Activity (# IA_BE_13)! James Tracy, DO, FACAAI, says his practice is using patient satisfaction surveys to meet this MIPS requirement.

Patient satisfaction surveys also let patients know you care about them and their experience. “We ask patients to partner with us regarding what services are most important to them and how we may improve at the clinic level for future visits,” advises Dr. Tracy. “We also ask them to provide their name and call back number if they want to discuss their experience further.”

One word of warning, however: don’t ask for patient input if you’re not open to listening and making changes. Patients will get frustrated if they continue to report the same problems without seeing any improvement.

The How

Surveys don’t have to be a burden on your practice. Here are our tips to keep it simple.

  1. Take advantage of technology.Five of our Practice Management Committee members use email to distribute surveys, and another member will be switching to email/text surveys in 2019. Two members currently distribute surveys at the practice and a third sends survey questions via text message. Interestingly, several members use Survey Monkey – a free or low-cost option. There are a variety of online form/survey builders available, such as TypeForm, so choose one that works for your practice.

    Mike Tankersley, MD, MBA, FACAAI, began surveys when he opened his solo practice in January of 2018. “I send Survey Monkey surveys via email to all new patients at the end of each month. I include an introductory comment with the survey link that takes patients directly to the survey. The service tells me how long it takes them to complete it (usually <3 min) and summarizes the results for me. And it’s free with the most basic Survey Monkey package,” notes Dr. Tankersley.

    J. Kelly Davis, BS, CMPE, practice administrator for Covenant Allergy & Asthma, began surveying patients six months ago. “Our appointment reminder system automatically sends surveys via email. The system allows me to set “target” scores and sends me an email alert if a question receives a 3-star rating or below. I then review that survey and respond if needed.  If it has to do with a particular provider, I discuss that with them directly.”

    Alnoor Malick, MD, FACAAI, says his practice works with a vendor that allows patients to schedule their appointments online. “The company sends those patients a text message after their appointment for a quick “click the number of stars” survey,” explains Dr. Malick. “We can then view these results online.”

    Stanley Fineman, MD, MBA, FACAAI, notes that his practice uses Press Gainey, a leading provider of health care surveys, to administer their patient satisfaction surveys.

  2. Keep it short.Practice management experts recommend keeping your survey short and simple – no more than  10 questions. Dr. Tankersley agrees; his survey has 10 questions. Similarly, M. Razi Rafeeq, MD, FACAAI, uses a one-page survey.
  3. Ask key questions.The following two questions are particularly illuminating and should be considered for every survey:

    What could we have done better?

    Would you recommend our practice to your family and friends?

    Dr. Rafeeq concurs. “At the end of the survey we always ask, ‘What can we do better to serve you?’ We consistently get interesting and very useful feedback from this question,” he notes.

  4. Survey new and existing patients.Practices need to survey the full spectrum of patients to get a complete picture of patient satisfaction. Surveying only new patients or follow-up patients could give you a skewed perspective.

    Dr. Tankersley started out by surveying new patients, but he plans to extend surveys to other patients as well. “I plan to survey my SCIT patients to get their feedback on my SCIT service line. In addition, we’ll survey chronic patients once a year to assess their satisfaction over a prolonged follow-up period,” clarifies Dr. Tankersley.

    Dr. Rafeeq’s practice performs surveys of new and established patients three times per year for one week at a time. Each allergist personally gives out the survey and asks the patient/parent to complete it.

  5. Aim for a 10-20% response rate.If your response rate is much lower, you may not get statistically significant results. The best way to improve your response rate? Have allergists (rather than staff) ask patients to complete the survey, explaining how much they value their patient’s opinion.
  6. Survey regularly.Your goal should be continuous improvement of the patient experience, and you need ongoing feedback to properly track performance. At Family Allergy & Asthma in Louisville, Kentucky, every patient gets a brief survey after each visit.

The Results

The whole point of patient satisfaction surveys is to use the results to improve your practice – but many practices skip this step because they’re not sure what to do. Here are our pointers:

  1. Share results with your team.Set goals for your practice and report on performance monthly. Brainstorm together at employee and physician meetings on ways to improve. Celebrate wins and learn together from mistakes.

    “We use surveys to provide feedback to physicians and staff, focusing on positive comments which we pass along to identified staff members and the office in general,” explains Thomas Derrico, BA, Administrator at Certified Allergy & Asthma Consultants. “When feedback is negative, we investigate, looking to determine if it’s a trend with a staff member, provider, the office or just a “one off.”  In some cases, we reach out to the respondent for more information and to address their concerns directly.”

    Kay Tyler, BS, BA, MBA, CEO of Family Allergy & Asthma, agrees. “We collate results monthly and they’re reviewed by providers and management. If a patient mentions a specific provider or employee, I usually discuss that directly with the provider or supervisor.”

  2. Focus on changes that improve the patient experience.Patient access is a good place to start. “Our practice has implemented several changes based on feedback from surveys”, notes Dr. Rafeeq. “These include providing free WiFi for patients, adding Apple TV in waiting rooms, and expanding allergy injection hours. We now offer early allergy injection hours starting at 8:00 am twice a week and late hours twice a week for the convenience of after school/after work patients.”
  3. Make sure staff has skin in the game.Set clear patient satisfaction expectations for every team member. Make patient experience part of their performance review.
  4. Communicate improvements to patients.Let patients know you’re making improvements based on their surveys. Post updates on social media and your patient portal. Add a page to your website and/or a sign in your waiting room that says, “You spoke, we listened.” Consider adding an update to your telephone hold message with information about improvements.

Patient satisfaction surveys can really benefit your allergy practice if you do them regularly and you know how to use the results. So, use these tips and get started today.