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How To Improve Survey Response Rates In Healthcare

Combining Web-Based and Mail Surveys Improves Response Rates

A joint effort between three separate Practice Based Research Networks (PBRNs) conducted a study that found combining web-based and paper surveys improves the rate for total survey responses. Using surveys in healthcare – whether for research, patient satisfaction, measuring quality of care, etc. – is a common practice and in the internet age, conventional wisdom suggests that web-based survey tools provide a superior alternative to paper based surveys. The conventional wisdom is incorrect, however.

The study was premised upon the fact that, regardless of the method or technology used in conducting research or gathering data, an adequate response rate is critical to the validity of any and all survey findings. The study (which can be read in full here) analyzed response rates from a survey implemented across 3 PBRNs which initially utilized electronic surveys but followed-up with paper surveys. Despite multiple (5) solicitations to respondents to take the electronic survey, the study found that not only were paper responses nearly one quarter of all responses, but that many responded via paper survey who would not have responded otherwise.

“Our results suggest there is still an important role for the use of paper-based methods in PBRN survey research. Both hard copy and electronic survey collection methods may be required to enhance clinician response rates.”

The study’s results make clear that the most effective way to conduct survey based research is by combining both paper and web based survey tools.

AutoData offers one of the very few solutions on the market that combines both paper and web surveys. In most cases, if an organization wants to combine paper and web-based surveys, they have to rely on separate products from separate companies, which can create more problems than it solves. From survey creation to storing and reporting on the data, AutoData’s software provides a streamlined, easy-to-use process that seamlessly combines all data collected from both paper and web into one database.

If improving survey response rates is your organization’s goal, then AutoData is your solution.

Federal Payments For Hospitals Tied To Surveys

“Under the national healthcare overhaul, patient experiences matter. Federal payments are being tied to surveys that gauge patient attitudes about such things as a hospital’s noise and cleanliness, communication and pain management.” – LA Times, “Healthcare overhaul leads hospitals to focus on patient satisfaction” (see link below for full article)

The importance of providing patients with quality care is not a new idea in the healthcare world. However, the importance of measuring a patient’s quality of care is becoming more and more apparent under the Affordable Care Act – as the quote above suggests.

It’s pretty simple, really: “If patients are happy, hospitals get more money. If they aren’t, hospitals get less.” Ultimately, positive patient experiences effect a hospital’s bottom line. Which begs the question, how are you measuring patient care? And perhaps more importantly, what are you doing with the data you collect?

Not only are we seeing an increase in attention paid to measuring care due to the Affordable Care Act, but we’re also seeing an increase in competition for new patients between hospitals.

“Competition is partly responsible for the transformation. People have access to hospital patient satisfaction and quality scores, empowering them to make informed choices about where to seek care. Public hospitals, particularly, risk losing large numbers of newly insured patients.”

Due in part to websites such as Google, Yelp, Angie’s List, etc., consumers now rely on customer experience reviews more than ever. But using the internet for reviews doesn’t just apply to restaurants and hotels anymore. Patients are becoming informed consumers when deciding which hospital to choose. Collecting your patient’s satisfaction is one important step, but getting that information in the hands of future patients is another.

AutoData has helped thousands of hospitals collect and analyze patient data for 20 years. We are committed to understanding the best practices of measuring patient care in a constantly changing industry. Our software gives your organization the in-house tools to capture patient satisfaction and report on the data collected.

Measuring and collecting patients satisfaction has never been more important. Is your current process adequate?


(LA Times story quoted in the post:


Web vs. Paper Surveys

Web vs. Paper Surveys

written by – Jim Vereide 06/12/2013

I frequently have customers ask how to better their response rates on their surveys – both online and paper format.  In almost every instance, I wish I had an immediate answer to rattle off or a “Survey Genie” I could turn to who possesses magical powers and immediate insight into the customer’s internal processes and target audiences.

– But I digress.

The reality is there is not a specific, all inclusive answer.  Hopefully this post will help steer you in the right direction by exploring the following questions about your business, internal processes, and target audience.

What is your objective?

One thing to keep in mind when publishing your surveys is the content your survey contains and the data you are attempting to gather.  For example,  if you are a clinic looking to measure how satisfied your patient was with their last visit, you will likely find a more accurate reflection of your patient’s satisfaction by having her submit answers immediately after the visit.  Therefore, it’s best to have a paper form ready for the patient as she is leaving the appointment.  Not only will you likely find that the data you are gathering more accurately reflects the patient’s viewpoint; but you will also find a better response rate by presenting the survey to the patient in person, as opposed to giving them the option to do it online after.

Now, say the same clinic wants to track post care follow-up information on a patient a few months after the visit. In this case, obviously the patient is no longer in the clinic but has luckily provided them with her email address. This would be a great application for hosting a web survey.  The patient can visit your website, where you host a link to your survey or you can email the link to the survey directly to the patient.  The data the clinic needs requires some time to have passed since the initial visit and instead of mailing out a paper survey – which sounds archaic – you can e-mail a URL with the survey. 

Who is your audience?

My mother taught me that people are like snowflakes: no two people are alike.  We identify with millions of different trends, groups, or factors.  Think about all of the demographics that make up your client base or target audience.  Are they computer/internet savoy?  Are you looking for their response on-site (in person) or remotely (follow ups, pre/post on site responses)?  How can you make this process as seamless and streamlined as possible for your audience?  And most importantly, how large is your audience, or how great of a response rate do you expect?

Where is your audience? (Location, location, location!)

When I was seven, I started a lemonade stand in my parent’s front yard with the intentions of making enough money to retire when I was eight.  At 35, I now understand that my  business plan was a bit ambitious to say the least.  Though in retrospect, I believe it was my high expectations of my own performance that gave me the courage and motivation to pursue the dream of a lavish lemonade lifestyle at 8, no matter what the naysayers may have said.

On my third day, I found myself getting discouraged at the business -or lack thereof – I was getting on my dead end, cul-de-sac location.  It was then I noticed a crew of construction workers one block up the road from my front yard, digging ditches in the hot summer sun.  After a few minor adjustments and assistance from my Little Red Wagon, my business was mobile and now open to remote audiences.  It took exactly two minutes for me to completely sell out of my day’s inventory; but more importantly I had found my ideal customer base, and I knew where they would be for the rest of the week.  Two more days and countless pitchers of lemonade later, I was rich and on a path to success (relatively speaking of course).


The point of this cute anecdote (as well as asking the preceding questions)  is to underscore the importance of knowing your customer base. That’s what AutoData’s software does. Whether handing your patient a paper survey or having a customer fill one out online, having the option for both will give you an advantage. I guess the answer to the question posed at the beginning of the blog is: why not use both paper and web! Utilizing paper and web surveys will extend your survey’s reach and give you more pertinent data to make your organization the best it can be.


– Jim Vereide
AutoData Systems
Business Development Director



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