Best Practices in Patient Experience Q&A

The following Q&A is provided as a follow-up to our recent Webcast, “Best Practices in Patient Experience.” If you’re actively surveying or considering survey options, this post is a must read.

How would this practice work with hospital-based EMS systems where the hospital uses it’s own survey?

An EMS survey complements the hospital’s questionnaire, which is always geared toward the patient’s experience while in the hospital. Conducted separately and based on patient data you provide, EMS Survey Team would ask questions specific to your response time, care, and interaction with each patient. Our questionnaire aligns with the Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (CAHPS) survey measures.

How do you determine what questions will be asked/ How many questions are asked?

Based on years of experience working with many clients in more than 20 states, we’ve developed a set of 24 core questions we recommend for every EMSST questionnaire. These questions ensure that the information gathered is relevant to the EMS patient experience. They provide essential feedback for your team. And, they enable you to benchmark your performance against our national database.  These questions pertain to:  

  • The Dispatcher
  • The Ambulance
  • The Medics
  • The Office Staff (Billing)
  • Overall Assessment

There are also open-ended questions that allow the survey participant to include additional feedback. And, we can customize the survey to include additional questions that may be specific to your company or your community.

How many questions are asked on the survey? Is there a minimum number of surveys required to use as part of the individual performance evaluations?

To be statistically relevant, at least 30 survey responses are needed. This is important because you want to make sure you’re management decisions aren’t based on skewed data from a few patients.

What kind of response rate do the agencies from the panel get? What have you done to increase their response rates?

Average Response Rates across the EMS Survey Team Database are
12 – 20% per month. This is typical for the industry overall, and maybe a bit higher.

Here is how the panel stacks up:

Cumberland Response Rate – 18.1%*
Snohomish County Fire District 7 – 21.69%*
*Response rate reflects 12 months of data ranging from February 2015-February 2016

Snohomish County Fire District 7 conducts their surveys by mail. Cumberland uses both mail and web-based outreach to conduct their surveys. The web-based survey accounts for less than 1% of the noted response rate.

Ways to improve the survey responses:

  1. Send your patient data as frequently as possible.
    When the experience is fresh in a patient’s mind, they’re more likely to respond. If it takes a month or more for a patient to receive the survey, they may be less likely to respond. We process and mail surveys within 48 hours of receiving patient files.

  2. Accurate Patient Contact Information.
    There is a direct correlation between good addresses and survey response rates. Whether you’re sending out 3,000 or 500 surveys, the more good addresses we have when the data is randomized for selection, the higher the response rate. While we can all understand the struggles of obtaining accurate patient information, obtaining inaccurate or no information will negatively impact your response rate. Note that our internal address validation system removes incomplete or bad addresses before the surveys are dropped in the mail.

  3. Key Messaging.
    Let patients know that you value their feedback and hope they’ll complete the survey if they get one. Explain how their comments will improve the experience for others in their community. Create a “script” or provide key talking points to ensure that everyone on your team explains the process consistently.

  4. Provide Clear Value of the Survey to the Respondents.
    Be transparent with your survey results. As we can see from the HCAHPS examples, transparency holds great value in determining whether or not a patient will return to a hospital for treatment (when they have the option to do so). Make your scores public to the community as frequently as possible. Communicate any internal changes you have made to improve your quality of patient care service. Let patients know that their voice has made a difference in future outcomes. Transparency will not only improve your response rate, it will also enforce the value of your services to future and current patients as well.

  5. Demographics
    While this is an uncontrollable variable, demographics play a major role in an agency’s response rate. When the majority of the population being served is over the age of 65, we recommend conducting surveys by mail and telephone. Our data shows that telephone surveys have a significantly higher response rate (79-80%) when compared to mailed surveys (overall ranges between 18%-20%). Our goal is to ensure you are getting the most reliable data so you can make informed decisions. We’ll work with you to determine the options that best meet your needs to optimize survey returns.


Do you find that you get more responses from surveys that don’t require providing contact information?

To maintain compliance with the HIPAA privacy act, we do not require a participant to identify themselves with any personal information on the survey. This confidentiality allows the participant to feel comfortable with providing honest feedback.

In our cover letter that accompanies the survey, we do explain to the participant that the survey is confidential and used for performance improvement purposes only. Patients are identified on the survey with a unique identification number. Therefore, no patient information is needed to complete the survey.

To ensure we are current with all HIPAA compliance updates and changes, EMS Survey Team is an active member Eagles Associates, Inc.

Have you ever given new hires a survey to ask about their first impression of the agency’s culture?

We haven’t interviewed that population, yet. But we could easily design a survey to do so. We know that several of our EMS clients take the pulse of new hires throughout their onboarding process. Explore more employee analytics via our Employee Engagement Survey.