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Survey staff members to identify poor service

The Doctor's Office, April 29, 2008

Staff members and clinicians have a firsthand view of what goes on in your practice every day and may be able to recognize poor performance patterns and recurring patient complaints. As a result, a staff satisfaction survey used in conjunction with a patient satisfaction survey can help provide your management team with a complete picture illustrating how to better serve your patients.

The following are three steps to ensure that your staff survey will provide the results needed to improve service:

1. Compose, format, and tailor questions. Surveys should be handed out or mailed to all staff members, including practice managers, billers, physicians, nurse practitioners, medical assistants, and front desk staff members. Ask them to fill it out, without including their names, and send it back to the office to be reviewed.

Surveys must go to all employees or a representative sample from all departments. “Don’t skew the results,” Pat Kearney, RN, MPA, ARM, risk management advisor at Stevens & Lee in Lancaster, PA says. “You can’t pick and choose who you want to query because you’re not going to get the feedback you want. You have to be absolutely consistent about it.”

Keep the format clear and simple. Tailor the questions in the survey to the issues in your practice that you want solved, such as staff members using better phone etiquette when talking to patients, Kearney says. Include five to 10 questions with both open-ended and multiple-choice options. Provide a scale system for the survey questions ranging from one to five, correlating to “not good,” “fair,” “good,” “very good,” and “excellent.”

Lois Summers, an office administrator at General Internal Medicine in Lancaster, says the staff survey in her office offers a comment section where employees can write any problems that bother them or list suggestions to improve the quality of service in the office, such as to hire new staff members or providers to better handle the patient flow and office operations.

2. Organize results and provide feedback. Once the surveys begin to come back, start reviewing the results and compile a list of the most significant areas to address to your practice. Highlight the topics a majority of the people show a concern about, Kearney says.

Next, form an internal quality improvement committee composed of staff members. Meet on a regular basis and talk about any ongoing issues. The goal of this committee is to determine a sound plan of action that will help the office implement better service.

Although the survey may underscore many negative responses, Kearney says managers and physicians should always tell their staff members to celebrate their successes too. “The staff needs to know that not every patient is complaining about them,” she says. “If you get positive feedback, tell your staff that they are doing something right.”

3. Analyze and implement. The next step is to review the survey responses and find solutions to some of the obvious problems or most popular issues brought up by your staff members. Kearney says to make sure that you have calculated the numbers and discuss the results with your lead physician, considering the root causes of these problems.

Shannon Sousa is the editor of The Doctor's Office. She may be reached at This story was adapted from one that first appeared in the March edition of The Doctor's Office, a publication by HealthLeaders Media.