How to do it... Satisfaction surveys

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The very fact that measuring resident – and employee – satisfaction levels has become an issue in long-term care is a sign of vast progress, experts point out. Now, however, the challenge is to get more providers to take part, while developing more sophisticated information-gathering and benchmarking methods. Drilling deeper and refining data better should only help the profession in the long run. With consumer choice emerging as a key baby boomer preference, satisfaction surveying will become more crucial, especially in competitive markets. Top resident satisfaction surveying experts offer insight and tips for doing it right.

1 - In preparation for a survey, be sure to alert residents and families. Urge them to participate and don't fear you'll only be stirring up possibly disgruntled comments. It's a fake fear, says Vivian Tellis-Nayak, vice president of research for My InnerView.
"Facilities with higher response rates usually have higher percentages of satisfied residents and families. These facilities also score higher on quality outcomes," Tellis-Nayak says.

2 - Be sure to include the question: "Overall, how satisfied are you with the facility?" You get customers' "distilled" feelings when they respond, Tellis-Nayak notes. In turn, this correlates to responses for all other questions.

3 - Inquire about families' willingness to recommend your facility to others.
"Research shows that most families choose a nursing home based on its reputation and recommendations by others and, second, a facility with more customers willing to recommend it as 'excellent' enjoys a higher occupancy rate," Tellis–Nayak observes.

4 - Look to responses at the extremes, rather than just the average. Those who rate something "excellent" or "poor" are most likely to put feelings into action. They should be seen as your key opportunities and challenges, respectively. Responses in the middle are less emotionally involved and less likely to evoke action.

5 -Share survey results with your staff. Understand your facility's strengths and weaknesses, and set targets based on survey results. "Always take time to celebrate successes with your staff," Tellis-Nayak advises.

6 - You always have to take into account what the top drivers of satisfaction in a nursing home are: how management receives staff ideas; how visitors are treated; and whether nurses treat residents with dignity, says Matt Mulherin, director of corporate communications for Press Ganey Associates.
"To promote a receptive culture, develop and document a process for hearing and responding to con-
cerns, complaints and suggestions," Mulerhin says.
"Document this process, including the appropriate contact people and include this discussion and documentation in the admission process," he adds.

7 - Use a bulletin board in an area well trafficked by visitors to inform them about new programs and services the facility is offering. It also can point out specific actions taken due to visitor feedback and alert visitors about future events, as well as what they can do to help out.

8 - Consider placing greeters near the main entrance, Mulherin adds. Besides lightening the mood, they can also help make sure newcomers don't get lost. First impressions, after all, are always critical.

9 - Provide a comfortable place where visitors and family members can meet privately. No fair simply renaming a meeting room, Mulherin stresses.

10 - Learn and respect each resident's personal preferences, whether it has to do with family, emotional or spiritual needs, or preferences about wanting individual caregivers, sleep schedules or other topics. Also important to take into account are their educational levels, information desires and spiritual needs.
"Seek to understand and facilitate the unique cultural, ethnic or religious needs of residents," Mulherin adds.
Customer service is really what satisfaction surveys measure so it's important for providers to get better at it.

Mistakes to avoid
- Don't look only at averages of respondents' answers. People at the extreme ends of the ratings scales are those most likely to take action – good or bad.

- Don't try to surprise residents or families when you take a survey. Remember: Receiving more responses is better than receiving fewer.

- Don't keep results secret from your staff. Survey feedback is like a health status report and should be acted on accordingly.