Addressing management issues

Edited by Christopher S. Frings PhD, CSP

Physician satisfaction surveys and walking out of a meeting

Physician satisfaction survey

Do you have any information
concerning questions we could ask on a physician satisfaction survey? Our 125-bed hospital has an outpatient service in the hospital and a satellite drawing station/lab. We also use a reference lab for testing.

You should develop your own
questionnaire. Get copies of these types of questionnaires from your reference lab and friends at other hospitals and labs. Then adapt (not adopt) these questionnaires to fit your needs. The panelists came up with the following list of things to consider. (Note: You will not want to include all of these.)

Questions relating to the pre-analytic process:

  • Is our staff courteous and friendly, professional, helpful, knowledgeable and able to answer your questions; does staff respond within a reasonable time period?
  • Is the specimen collection process efficient and acceptable to your patients?
  • Are our request forms easy to use?
  • Is our directory of services complete and easy to use?
  • Does our transportation system meet your needs?
  • Is the satellite drawing station of value to you or your patients?
  • Are the times the satellite is open for drawing convenient for your patients?
  • Have you heard of any issues from your patients about laboratory services?

Analytic questions might include:

  • Do we provide tests needed for your practice of medicine?
  • Does our turnaround time meet your needs?
  • Is our report easy to understand?
  • Do we answer your questions in a timely and accurate manner?
  • Is our customer service response good?
  • Are our text messages adequate and helpful?
  • Does our specimen storage allow for add-on and repeat testing, as needed?
  • How would you rate the quality of lab results?
  • What tests would you like to see added to the lab menu?

Post-analytic questions to consider:

  • Are our bills accurate, timely and easy to understand?
  • Are we responsive to patient billing issues and to your billing needs?
  • Is our billing staff courteous?
  • Does our report delivery system meet your needs?
  • Is turnaround time acceptable for STAT tests?
  • Is critical value notification satisfactory?
  • What changes would you like to see the lab make to better serve you and your patients?

According to Alton Sturtevant, You should design a survey to measure all aspects of your services, but keep it brief enough to encourage completion. Design a numeric grading system that can provide quantitative results (e.g., 1 through 10, with 1 being unsatisfactory and 10 being excellent). You should probably consider conducting multiple shorter surveys rather than an extensive one. I entered the following Internet search, laboratory satisfaction survey, on and got 47,846 responses. I entered two of the first 15 responses and found an online satisfaction survey attributed to the College of American Pathologists. An example can be found at the following link: You can meet accreditation and improve your laboratory services if you conduct periodic satisfaction surveys and then act on your findings.

Marti Bailey recommends, You will probably want to collect different information for outpatient vs. inpatient. Start by assuming that you will need two survey tools. You will need to think about what patient demographics (e.g., age, gender, etc.) need to be captured as part of the survey information to help in analysis and also what type of rating scale you will use.

I have seen survey tools as simple as five or six basic questions, all the way up to five and six pages. It will help to look at the survey process from the back end. Evaluating how you are going to analyze the data and how you are going to use the results of your analysis to make improvements should drive the development of the tool. If you do not have the time or staff to analyze the information you collect and/or if you do not use it to make improvements, then surveys are just an exercise with no real value.

For inpatients, you will probably want something more extensive so that you can capture specific information, which will highlight where you have problems and where you are stellar. Select the different service areas you want to examine and then develop specific questions for each. Suggested areas to survey include the admission process, rooms, meals, nurses, physicians, tests and treatments, visitors and family, and discharge. There may also be some general questions you will want to include. Since inpatients usually have some recovery time associated with their hospital stay, as well as post-discharge, I feel that the survey used for this group can be long enough to capture all the information you need and still not negatively impact your response rate. I, personally, think that survey tools for outpatients should be kept brief. I know that my own hospital sends one that is several pages long. Even though I am well aware of the importance of completing the survey, I only filled out the first page because of the length.

Ms. Bailey points out, I recommend that you look online for survey tools and also check with any contacts you may have at other hospitals. Although you will want something specifically tailored to your hospital, why reinvent the wheel? I am sure much of the same information is captured by different hospitals. I honestly think that an outpatient satisfaction survey should total no more than 12 straightforward questions, along with an opportunity for the patient to cite specific details when needed. If you do decide to keep your survey minimal, this will require some very thorough editing to pin down what is really important. If you just want to know whether or not patients are satisfied, you could go with something as simple as asking the following three questions: How would you rate your visit today? Will you use our facility again? Would you recommend our facility to others?

These questions will definitely tell you whether a patient is satisfied or dissatisfied, but will not give you the details you need to pinpoint problems. More specific questions that will provide this detail could include: How long did it take you to arrange the appointment for this visit? If urgent or semi-urgent, how soon were you able to get an appointment for this visit? Did this appointment meet your need? How long did you wait before being seen by a doctor? Were you satisfied with your treatment today? Were you satisfied with the information you received about your treatment? Was there any part of your visit where you felt you were not treated with appropriate courtesy and respect? If so, please specify.

Bottom line. The panelists suggest reviewing volumes of information for consideration when developing your questionnaire. Let several people read a draft and ask for their input before sending it to your physicians.

Walking out of a meeting

I have recently had an experience of walking out of a
meeting. There was no agenda, and no minutes have been produced. Are there any circumstances where a person attending a meeting can walk out? Have I broken a major rule? Could you please give me an answer as this has led to major conflict with the human resources manager who called the meeting?

Larry Crolla advises, Usually you can excuse yourself to
the group or the meeting leader ahead of time and leave when necessary. If a meeting has gone over the scheduled time, you should be able to excuse yourself with, I have a time conflict. From your question, it sounds like your leaving was taken as a snub or disapproval with the meeting content. It sounds like you need to mend fences with the human resources manager.

Alton Sturtevant recommends, I feel that leaving a meeting prior to its completion is justified if: You are called from the meeting to handle an emergency situation, the meeting is going longer than scheduled and you have a more important commitment, or you are dismissed due to a prearranged circumstance.

According to Marti Bailey, I cannot see that walking out of a meeting can ever be the best alternative. This behavior reeks of defiance, anger and lack of self-control. I would have to say that no matter who called the meeting someone at a higher level than yourself, or you, if you were meeting with people that you supervise you have committed a serious indiscretion. Besides making yourself look bad, you may have made others look bad, as well. The point is that it does not matter what the reason was, your behavior was not appropriate. If you have an issue about how someone is handling a meeting, you should take it up with that person privately. Instead, your actions made it very public. Yes, it is good to have an agenda for the meeting and minutes produced after a meeting, but these things are not the sole factors that make or break a productive meeting.

Ms. Bailey adds, It is no secret that keeping meetings as productive as possible takes skill and commitment, and it is also no secret that many managers consider meetings to be a waste of time. But since meetings probably are not going to go away within our lifetime, we all need to assume responsibility for making the meetings we attend as good an investment of our valuable time as possible. This will not happen if we presume that the entire responsibility for a productive meeting falls upon the person who called the meeting. If you find that you are attending meetings that are not achieving their value quota, then you and the other participants are not doing your part.

Bottom line. Even though there was no written agenda, the panel believes you did not use good judgment in walking out of the meeting without making prior arrangements with the meeting chairperson. To leave a small meeting without saying anything, especially if someone who is ranked above you or equal to you in the management chain is running that meeting, can be considered a snub. Consider mending fences and apologize to the human resources manager.

Christopher S. Frings is an internationally known consultant and speaker on the topics of leadership, managing change, time management, reaching goals, and stress management. His consulting firm, Chris Frings & Associates, is in Birmingham, AL.

September 2003: Vol. 35, No. 9

© 2003 Nelson Publishing, Inc. All rights reserved.