U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Voice of the Customer

At times, health care providers and organizations forget that their work should always be patient-centered. Every design decision, every financial decision and every aspect of practice operations should come with the question, “How does this benefit the patient?” One of the best ways to answer that question is to simply ask it. Often times, there is no simpler—or more effective—assessment than asking patients for their opinions and feedback.

Involving patients as much as possible in the transformation effort will allow the health care practice to align effectively with patients’ needs and wants. There are many ways for practices and health care organizations to seek this important customer voice. Here are just a few examples of how to do this:

  1. Board Committees
    Patients should serve on health care boards and executive committees. These top-level leadership and oversight bodies are at the “bluntest end of care” (i.e., farthest away from the bedside) and can benefit from having patients share their perceptions and stories of what it is like to be at “the sharp end of care” (i.e., the bedside).

  2. Quality Improvement Committees
    These are often operational in nature (as opposed to strategy-setting) and can benefit for the same reasons that board-level committees may benefit.

  3. Focus Groups
    When a practice has a specific design decision or would like a deeper understanding about one or several of its current processes, it is relatively simple to call a few patients together for a facilitated discussion to request feedback about the issue(s) in question.  Focus groups should be run by individuals with some experience facilitating them, although this is not always necessary. Asking open-ended questions and gently steering participants to stay on task may be all that is required to get great information.

  4. Patient Surveys
    To reach a larger number of patients about a particular topic, a practice may elect to survey its patients. Surveys can be performed electronically or on paper.  One way that may be simplest is to randomly survey patients in a prospective manner as they seek care prior to or immediately after their appointments.

  5. Suggestion Boxes
    Placing visible suggestion boxes in the practice or having clear links on the practice home page may facilitate patient engagement.  Actively soliciting patients to enter information through these means may yield greater success than keeping these as a passive option. 


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