Satisfaction, Smatisfaction – any good?

More and more often I’m receiving satisfaction surveys from providers of health care  Interesting concept: satisfaction. Satisfaction with what? Satisfaction with service, respect, knowledge, empathy, partnership, noise? I expect that members of my team will listen to me, help me listen to them, not waste my time, be nice to me, tell me how much stuff costs in advance of charging me, tell me the likelihood that whatever they’re recommending will work, tell me what might happen if I don’t follow their recommendations, tell me how I can reach them when I need help, tell me what should trigger reaching out to them. As a nurse, a patient and a caregiver I wonder if surveys ask what’s important to me (mostly they’re not) and I wonder if the results are actionable (If results are lower than hoped, that something can be done to make the results better.  If they are better than expected, that someone can figure out why, so it can be done more often).

As a Quality Improvement professional I’m looking for strong interventions that are likely to move the dial (better score). A strong intervention means changing how something is done. Doing things the same will not improve people’s perception and give a better score.  Often organizations think that training is the way to improve / change something.  Training is a weak intervention – not likely to result in change. If you can’t change how something is done, then why ask me about it? Wastes my time.  Lately, I’ve tried to keep surveys really short – 2-10 questions (1 page).  I like to ask if you would recommend the person, practice, program, service to your family or best friend.  Then ask what could have happened to make you more likely to recommend (an open-ended question). After 20 years of surveying, I’m appalled at how poorly I can predict what matters to people.  The open-ended question often provides information I never thought of.  Canned questions assume we know what matters to people.  We only look where the light is. Actually, the best way to understand the perceptions of people you support is to regularly engage them in conversation about what matters to them, not survey them.


  • Good Stuff Danny! Your statements address some of my reasoning for developing our app. Let’s connect on LI.

  • Anonymous says:

    Danny, I agree with you. The canned variety really do not get to the root of what matters to you when you are the patient. How many of them ask if “your health provider or anyone you met on the health care team introduced themselves to you and explained their role upon first interaction.” I feel like that is a critical piece to the beginning of satisfaction.

  • Sue Spivack says:

    Yes!! Once again you’ve nailed it, Danny. I’m printing this out and putting a copy in with the next surveys I get from my medical people. Thanks

  • Anonymous says:

    Last sentence…priceless insight!

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