How to respond to a patient-satisfaction survey
By leveraging the power of surveys, doctors and patients can improve the lines of communication, increasing the effectiveness and efficiency of each visit, and improving patient happiness. –SurveyMonkey.com
When your doctor sends a follow-up survey after a visit, how should you fill it out?
Easy: Check every box, “very satisfied.” Also write in lavish comments. Use a thesaurus to find synonyms for “stupendous.” Lay it on thick with an industrial-size stucco trowel. Resist any impulse to be “completely honest” to be “helpful.”
Trust me: Doctors do not appreciate what you think. And they have powerful ways to respond. I found this out the hard way as I do everything I learn:
Dentist: Hi … let’s see here … “Jeff.” It’s been too long and your gum recession seems to have advanced into triage surgery stage, which is a cash cow for us, so we’re glad you’re here.
By the way, thanks for filling out our survey. We really value your feedback. For example, I noticed you thought I wasn’t really a painless dentist as I advertised. Let’s see if we can do better this time without the numbing gel or Lidocaine. Open wide.
Internist for annual physical: Great to see you again, Jeff. What’s it been, a year? How are things going? How are you feeling? Anything new?
Say, I noticed from your response to my patient survey that I was a little rough last time in my prostate screening exam. You said something about how I was “fishing around” too much.
To be honest, I don’t enjoy it either. So instead of our usual digital rectal exam, I’m going to use this prize-winning zucchini from my neighbor’s garden that’s been chilling in the break room refrigerator. Just bend over …
Allergist: How’re you dealing with the pollen this year? They say it’s the worst ever. Something about climate change. I hope you’ve been responding to the shots.
Speaking of responding, I really appreciate your survey comments. Talk about “taking shots”! We were so impressed by your feedback that we completely mixed up your allergen doses and made you more allergic to everything.
Me: [Seized by hives and convulsed with deadly sneezing attack.]
Psychotherapist: I think we’re making amazing progress here. You’re opening up and owning your reality. You’re healing from your abusive childhood from that time your mother refused to give you a cookie. My heart aches for your aching heart.
One issue we also might want to explore is blaming your therapist for your problems, which I saw from your survey results. Since our therapeutic relationship is all about honesty, let me express that you might be too f***ked up to continue our sessions. Frankly, I think you’re pretty much a major butt hole.
Me: Ok. Thank you. See you next week so we can talk about it?
Ophthalmologist: Nice to “see” you again, LOL. What’s it been, a year? Two? Let’s look at your chart.
Hmmm. Last time your vision was fine but you had floaties. Sorry. That’s normal at your age.
But it also says here from your survey that you didn’t like the dilated eye exam because it made you look like a Margaret Keane portrait. You do understand the dilated eye exam helps us save your vision, right?
Anyway, let’s have you look at the eye chart, which we customized and printed up especially for you. Tell me what you see.
Urologist: I see after our initial consultation you want to go through with the vasectomy. I know that must have been a hard decision. I understand it’s a lot to swallow. We’re definitely concerned if we blow it. That’s why we appreciate the thrust of your survey comments. Especially — I’ll read this back to you — how we should “ease up on the childish double entendre.” Got it.
The good news is we’re doing a no-scalpel procedure. We’re using a hemostat, which are locking forceps with a sharp tip to puncture through the skin of the scrotal sac. Then we’ll gently spread open the skin so we can visualize the vas deferens.
The bad news is your insurance doesn’t cover local, regional or general anesthesia, so I hope you have the balls to take it where you make it ….
Me: [Blacks out; awakes sore but procedure completed.]
Every doctor: So, Jeff, thanks for coming back to my practice after you didn’t seem so happy from the survey we sent you. Unfortunately, I’m the only doctor around who takes your insurance and will see you even while my people at the front desk say you’re a complete pain in the ass, you bitch and moan, and don’t pay on time.
You also second-guess everything I say or do because of something you saw on the internet. You complain about your out-of-pocket, even though it’s a tiny percentage of what your care actually costs. You blame the greedy doctors while we struggle with growing patient loads of aging and sicker people, greater costs, declining fees and insurance companies controlling our patient care decisions.
Or you think government healthcare is horrible socialism while you depend on government healthcare and drive up everyone’s rates and taxes because you sit around, eat crap and smoke cheap cigars.
You see this medical degree on my wall? It says you know bupkis about medicine, while I have years of experience and expertise. Ask all the people who are still alive because I diagnosed and treated them.
Of course I want to make my patients happy, but most of all, healthy. That’s why I spent 15 years in pre-med, med school and residency, ate hospital food and racked up $300,000 in student debt. Because I care.
Think about next time you fill out a patient satisfaction survey, butthole.
Me: Um, ok doctor.
Jeffrey Denny is a Washington writer