3-minute case study: Measuring patient experience

By Gale Pryor | March 21, 2018


Researchers have identified top performers on key financial and clinical metrics across the athenahealth network — and are uncovering the innovations that drive their success. Here's a snapshot of one tactic on the road to lower cost, higher value care.

The problem

South Denver Gastroenterology's five clinics and ambulatory surgery centers needed a way to measure the quality of their patients' experience — and to communicate patient feedback in a useful way for clinicians and practice leaders.

“The patients are the ones that pay our salaries. The patients are the ones that we are here to serve," says practice administrator Branden Lish. "If we focus on the patient, everything else takes care of itself."

The solution

First, receptionists gave patients a handout with the address of an online survey. Less than two percent of patients responded. South Denver rethought its approach and refined the process.

Now, before every visit, receptionists give each patient a form on which to jot down questions to ask their provider. The form also lets patients know that they will have a chance to provide feedback after the visit. The following day, every patient receives an email from the organization's board president with a link to an online survey about their experience from beginning to end. And, on average, 20 percent of patients respond.

During the first year of the initiative, the survey data and patient feedback were shared with clinicians and staff every six months. The next year, results were shared quarterly. In the third year, the organization began sharing survey responses weekly.

“Every provider, every staff member sees every comment every patient has made," says Lish. “It is just part of our workflow."


With thousands of responses tallied, the survey data enables the organization to practice constant, measured improvement. When 90.71 percent of patients said they would refer family and friends to South Denver, leaders set a new goal, nudging their benchmark up to 91.21 percent. Three years after launching the survey, says Lish, patient referrals are at an all-time high.

A data-driven focus on patient feedback has helped put South Denver Gastroenterology among the top 10 percent of financial performers for healthcare organizations of its size across the athenahealth network. The organization also gets high marks — particularly for a specialty practice — in measures of patient engagement: a high patient pay yield, portal adoption rate, and very few no-shows.


Gale Pryor is a senior writer for athenaInsight.

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