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Application Focus: Web-Based Surveys
By
Jeff Pasternack
07/04/01

I was recently asked for a few examples of applications that physicians could put on their web sites where there would be almost no issues with HIPAA. Before I could answer, the follow-on requirement was that the application had to offer a lot of value to the practice and be inexpensive to set up and maintain. Furthermore, it had to do something that most practices donít currently do and, if the practice does it offline, the online version had to do it better. Of the 80 or so applications that one finds on the web today, there are very few that offer this value to the practice save for one: web-based surveys.

There are many excellent companies that provide this technology, either as a stand-alone service or as part of a larger suite of database-backed applications. Clear Picture (www.clearpicture.com ), HostedWare (www.hostedsurvey.com) and Zoomerang (www.zoomerang.com ) offer the former and InfoZen (www.infozen.com ) and Internet4associations.com the latter.

Surveys can be used by organizations to learn more about their customers:

    -Gather information from patients about their interest in new products/services, changes to existing products/services or even something as mundane as a shift in practice hours
    -Determine patientsí level of satisfaction with everything from waiting room comfort to staff friendliness
    -Find out if the nurses tell children that shots donít hurt, only to leave the parent with a screaming child

Larger health care providers can learn more about their employees through surveys as well:

    -Determine the level of interest in changes to benefits packages
    -Boost morale through an awards program with nominations and votes captured by the survey system
    -Employee/Employer evaluations

Results can be tallied in a variety of fashions:

    -By response
    -By individual survey respondents, i.e. only Mr. Aís responses
    -By class of survey respondents, i.e. only Blue Cross/Blue Shield PPO members
    -Scaled with a weighting schema, i.e. questions in section 1 are scored twice as high as those in section 2

Results can be displayed in many ways:

    -Line graphs
    -Pie charts
    -Percentages
    -Raw numbers
    -Displayed over time so that you can see the trend of satisfaction scores

According to Aliza Rossman, Director of Marketing for MedChi, the Maryland State Medical Society, ďMany physicians donít realize the importance of customer satisfaction in todayís healthcare environment. Patient expectations of their interaction with physician practices have changed dramatically from how it used to be. You used to have your family physician and she or he was almost like a friend. Today, however, that relationship isnít as strong due to managed care. While physicians are often chosen based on whoís in the insurerís book, customer service and bedside manner play a large role in patient retention. By asking patients what they think, you gain access to valuable insights.

Web-based surveys typically go live in as little as one day. If the application is part of a larger suite of applications, it may take longer but it really just depends on how your Web site is configured. Of course, if you donít yet have a web site, the surveys can still be given, just not within the look and feel of your practiceís graphic schema.

Jeff Pasternack is the president of Dynamic Consulting Group, a franchise partner of 1-800-GOT-JUNK? and author of the TechnoPeasant Review.
If you have questions or comments about this column, please write to him at Jeff@TheDCG.com.