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Understanding the patient experience at your urgent care clinics is essential to ensuring their satisfaction with your services—and the long-term integrity of your organization. Good data on patient experience also plays a major role in marketing. It can inform a successful healthcare marketing campaign and generate new healthcare marketing ideas. But are you getting enough data from patients? In this post, we explore ways to increase survey response rates, while reducing costs and getting more actionable data.

One of the most widely used methods for capturing patient input is the survey, and for good reason. Surveys ensure that every patient is asked the same question in the same way, which minimizes potential bias.

And going digital can significantly reduce costs while increasing data collection. Online surveys generally have low administration costs, can be completed whenever the respondent prefers, and are scalable —accommodating any patient population size. Digital surveys may be distributed through websites, social media, email, or text message.

When Surveys Fall Short

Data integrity, however, is only as good as the tool itself. Barriers that prevent our respondents from accessing or completing the survey can bias results. And bad data can undermine your healthcare marketing strategy.

Good research methodology means that the information you capture represents your patient population well and that your research tool is easily completed by all respondents.

Survey response rate is one indicator of whether your methodology passes the test. In other words, a higher response rate lowers the risk of reaching invalid conclusions.

So what is an acceptable survey response rate for surveys?

There is no one statistically valid survey response rate. Instead, differences exist in survey response rates by industry, the population surveyed (e.g., women are more likely to respond than men), relevance of survey content to the survey audience (e.g., recent patients), and survey integrity.

To understand a response rate, consider the non-response rate. A response rate of 30 percent for example, translates into a non-response rate of 70 percent. That sounds like a lot! But that 30 percent response rate is still acceptable if the differences between respondents and non-respondents are negligible. “Systematic bias” occurs when those completing and not completing the survey are somehow different — usually related to demographics, such as gender, age, and locale.

How to Improve Patient Survey Response Rates

For a successful survey effort, remove as many barriers as possible. A survey that is credibly branded by your organization, readily accessed with as few steps as possible, and includes clear and understandable questions with straightforward response options will net higher response and completion rates.

Surveys that are lengthy, poorly worded, ask complex questions, or whose response sets are excessively demanding can result in respondent fatigue. Fatigue causes respondents to abandon the survey before completion. Or worse, they may answer questions with disinterest or disregard, which translates into bad data.

Developing your survey for respondent convenience and flexibility — including the ability to respond via a paperless mode, such as text — is essential these days. The number of surveys being completed over a smart phone has increased significantly over recent years, particularly among younger audiences. These issues of accessibility and abandonment have fueled Experity’s decision to offer native text message surveys, with no links to click or apps to download.

Survey design also plays a major role in boosting response rates. A good survey effort begins with an invitation that sets expectations, assures patient confidentiality (personal identifiers are not reported) or anonymity (no personally identifying information is captured), and explains the value of the survey for the respondent.

Survey response and completion rates are improved by including preferred fonts (san serif), open space between questions, and a percent completion bar. You may also see improvement by injecting some fun into the survey-taking process. This can be accomplished by capturing responses via slider bars, dials, emoticons and even gamification.

Where anonymity is a non-issue, a personalized survey invitation (e.g., Dear Carol) including survey rationale can be helpful in securing a good response rate and in framing responses to the survey questions.

Net Promoter Scores

Securing solid customer satisfaction survey response rates is a concern of every industry with customers, clients, members, or patients. No matter what you call them, they’re at the center of your business. In 2003, a simple but clever customer survey method emerged. Called net promoter score (NPS), this metric’s brevity naturally removed many barriers affecting longer surveys.

NPS is so important because it’s a predictor of organizational growth. This survey depends upon the answer to one key question: How likely is it that you would recommend our company to a friend or colleague? Responses range from 0 to 10 with rating labels of “promoters” (9-10), “passives” (7-8), and “detractors” (0-6).

Scores reflect aggregated NPS patient satisfaction data. The percent of detractors is subtracted from the percent of promoters (the percent passives is ignored). NPS scores range from -100 (100% detractors) to +100 (100% promoters), with a score of zero indicating an equal percentage of promoters and detractors.

Owing to its brevity, NPS response rates are typically 30-40—far exceeding those found for more lengthy surveys, which can be as low as three percent.

In the end, the best survey provides an opportunity for business leaders to take action. That may mean improving on the patient care experience or building a successful healthcare marketing strategy.

We hope this has clarified some of the nuances of survey response rate. If you need support with any of the complications, reach out to our patient engagement team for answers.

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