Practice Improvement Q&A
Q: How do I improve my medical practice?
A: If you’ve ever asked yourself this question, congratulations! You are one step closer to incorporating patient feedback to affect meaningful change.
Generally, the steps for practice improvement are:
- Recognize a need for change
- Choose areas to measure
- Collect patient feedback
- Discover trends and insights
- Implement changes
- Monitor Growth
Q: I already have a wealth of established Patients and a good Online Reputation. Are you sure I can improve?
A: Actually, no! It could be entirely possible that once surveyed, every single patient would rate each area of your practice 5/5☆. If you’re reading this article, however, it could mean you’re not actively surveying every patient. If you’re not surveying every patient, then it’s impossible to know whether you can (or should) improve.
Q: But I already collect written and verbal feedback at the end of patient visits. Why would I need to send a survey?
A: No one can deny that written and verbal feedback is important. In Data Analytics, we call this “qualitative” information (or if you’re really in the loop – “qual”). Qual is great because we can look at it and directly understand what it means: Patient A said “the bathroom could have been tidier.” Done!
But what happens when Patient B says “the bathroom was so clean!”, or Patient C says “I would have preferred a hand dryer over paper towels” (yes, I know these are silly examples, bear with me). What I’m trying to illustrate is the problem with qualitative data: the more you have, the less it means. In other words, piles of handwritten notes are just that—piles of handwritten notes. Unless you have a tool which can process lots of comments at once and determine the overall sentiment, practice improvement on the basis of qualitative data will favor some opinions (the ones you have heard) over others.
The good news is, there’s another type of data which is far better suited to practice improvement. Numbers which can be added or subtracted (and indeed, averaged!) are called “quantitative” or “quant” data. These data make up for their lack of readability in their ability to be aggregated. Instead of viewing one patient comment at a time, you can combine 2,000 patient sentiments at once and get a feel for what all your patients think. In fact, quantitative data is said to be more accurate with each additional opinion. This is where surveys come in. At rater8, we ask every patient how they feel about specific areas of your practice on a 5.0 scale.
Bottom line: with qualitative feedback (words), you can get into a patient’s head and understand what went wrong and where. With quantitative feedback (numbers), you can get a bird’s-eye view of how several patients feel at once. Both are necessary for practice improvement (though personally, I’d argue that quant is king!)
Q: So we get a bunch of numbers. Then what?
A: Just as internal body temperature or blood pressure are not “just numbers,” neither are the data you collect on your practice. These numbers represent something unique and tangible (for instance, how often a particular clinical assistant is “just having a bad day”).
Here’s an example:
The first column shows a list of survey questions (your “areas to measure”). We can think of each of these like a litmus test for success. Together with qualitative information, they help us take your practice’s pulse. (Analytics professionals like to call stats like these “KPIs”, short for “Key Performance Indicators,” which just means that they can tell you about how your business is doing and that you can measure them the same way every time. If you’re interested in learning more, check out this article about KPIs in the context of emergency medical services).
Just as a pulse is usually more meaningful in reference to a baseline number, it’s helpful to compare each survey question’s score to similar practices or to your own practice over time (called “benchmarking” at rater8). In short, data-driven decision making means prioritizing areas which have displayed a genuine need for improvement. For your practice, this may mean anything from focusing on the lowest-scoring question, one at a time, to diverting resources from an area which consistently scores over 4.9☆.
Q: Does it work?
A: Okay, fine, I’ll prove it. But first I have to ask… quant or qual?
Q: Prove it quantitatively, please.
A: I studied a cohort of 35 rater8 practices over the course of two years and found their rating scores significantly increased at the 99% confidence level for nine out of nine KPIs studied.
Here’s what that looks like:
And here’s what it means: There’s a 99% probability that data-driven decision making (over random chance) led to an increase in patient satisfaction regarding staff friendliness (for these 35 practices from 2019-2021).
For the full results, visit the Appendix. For a case study, see “Happy patients tell their friends… Unhappy patients tell the world.”
Q: Show me qualitatively!
A: “With a staff of 7, some employees are stronger than others. rater8 data helped confirm suspicions about weaker employees and quantify performance issues so they could address and/or and improve patient satisfaction.” — Becky Luu, M.D. from Pediatric Ophthalmology & Adult Strabismus
“A doctor had very poor reviews before rater8; through both the internal rater8 data as well as the external Google reviews, he was able to identify and make small changes to his interactions with patients/bedside manner which has drastically improved his patients’ experiences – his reviews certainly show for it!” — Amber from Orthopedic Care Physician Network
“To improve the Waiting Room Time responses, Scheduling staff tries to accurately articulate the expected wait for each provider when confirming appointments with patients.” — Shefali from Suburban Orthopedics
“[I] have noticed that the areas of the practice that the physicians thought they were weak in are actually very strong, contrary to what many of the physicians may have thought…The comments on the dashboard and Benchmark Analysis shows that they are at or above their peers in these areas and the physicians are finally able to feel confident that that is the case.” — Rob Simpson from Princeton Orthopaedic Associates (One of our Practice Excellence Award Winners)
“Reviews have confirmed that the operational improvements…made since going live with rater8 are, in fact, helping address the underlying concerns.” — Eva & Bill from Orthopaedics Northeast
Q: Is it really that simple?
Well, almost! Pre-2020, it was easy to believe the work ended here, and that once we fixed something, it stayed fixed. Now, world-wizened, we know how quickly things can change.
In fact, it is now even easier to recognize that minute change is always taking place. Customer sentiment is no exception to this rule, and it’s important to keep tabs on satisfaction levels. Though the steps for practice improvement are often presented as a list, in reality they function more cyclically:
Q: So, how do I improve my practice?
A: Try collecting patient feedback with rater8.
Schedule a personalized demo today to learn more about how your practice could be collecting patient ratings and using these insights for measurable growth.