Sunday, June 29, 2014

THE PATIENT SURVEY RACKET: how to use the patient survey

I just read the Christopher Johnson, MD, post on the hidden life of patient surveys.  It was shared by more than a hundred people; I wish I knew if they were doctors or patients.

Recently I filled out a rate-a-doc checklist on the web.  I marked, for instance, that a waiting room was clean and relatively quiet, etc.  Just okay.  A small window popped up showing that "the Wizard" was behind the scenes, translating my Just Okay checkmarks into the text they would publish: "This is the most wonderful waiting room experience I've ever . . ."  I quickly erased my responses. On other sites, do the lavish praises I read come from patients, or from another Wizard truth-bender?  This should scare us.

I confess that I don't really know what to do about online doctor surveys now that I've seen one attempted revision without my permission.  Now I check only the doctor portion.  A doctor can give a perfect diagnosis to a new patient in minutes, but be off the mark too often with another patient.

Judging from several posts I've read, the surveys hospitals mail out are put into the wrong hands at the hospital, interpreted  erroneously, and used as a weapon for blame and responsibility shifting.  

What to do?

1. THE WRITE-IN VOTE:  Surveys do not ask the right questions, I use every bit of white space, to tell what I believe really happened to me and how I sometimes hated it.  How the required  wheelchair hours caused me hours of leg pain.  How the pain pill made me vomit.  And I don't mind writing that the survey asked the wrong questions.

2. THE WHO-DONE-IT?  If the good treatment was caused by my primary doctor, I say so.  Which kind patient assistant remembered I needed floss-threaders, found and gave me some. Name the genius PT  who taught me some OT, made me do things I didn't think I could, and even took me outdoors! Specify that the intake doc was incredibly disrespectful and blaming all week. Use names so others can't pass the buck (or grab the credit.)

3. THE PEN IS MIGHTIER.  If the survey is so inadequate that I'm still angry months later, or if one wonderful caregiver made the whole thing bearable, I take some good advice from a doctor:  write a formal letter (not an email) to the appropriate hospital official.  I find out who is the head of the unit I was in, and the correct address for her or him.  (I did write a praise letter for that PT.)

4. THE PHONE WON'T BITE.  If they send you (or your spouse) home without what you need, and without warning, and without help, call them.  If they were tough and distant when you told them you couldn't carry your 200-pound spine-surgery spouse to the bathroom, you have nothing to lose by calling again and insisting on some referrals to sources of help.  You have nothing to lose.  All they can do is hang up.

I wish you health.

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