Measurement Isn’t Enough: How to Utilize Physician Surveys to Improve HCAHPS & More

Imagine going to a seamstress or tailor to have your pants measured. You learn how much needs to be taken in or hemmed and then you leave with those marks and pins on your pants. You don’t leave the pants to be worked on.  It sounds crazy, right? Problem is, that’s exactly what you’re doing with your referring and employed physicians if you’re not linking survey results to critical business outcomes (e.g., HCAHPS, Referrals, Nurse Retention). To stop the measurement-only madness, check out our tips below so you can act …. and drive business outcomes. To see how SMD “hemmed the pants” of a large integrated healthcare system (spoiler alert: led to many improvements, including 15% improvement in employed physician retention), click here. And, don’t forget to join us for our upcoming webinar on this topic, Physician Surveys: How to Move from Measurement to Action, on March 15 at 2 p.m. Register here.

Tick Tock: There must be a realization that a physician’s attention and time to take a survey is limited—so serving up an excessively long questionnaire (some vendors ask over 100 items!) will not lead to quality data.

Don’t Start from Scratch:


The content must be actionable and focused on the most critical elements of the work­ing environment (valid content) and not just serve as an engagement-tracking mechanism. We suggest you focus on the concise list of items, from SMD’s proprietary Referring Physician Survey™, below. Having surveyed thousands of referring physicians, we have validated these items as not only important to ask on referring physician surveys, but also as items that consis­tently drive key business outcomes.

• Ease to work with hospital staff         • Communication in general • Facility administration
• Up-to-date equipment • Up-to-date facilities • Quality of physicians
• Quality of care • Quality of nurses • Patient safety
• Emergency department • Customer service/patient experience      • Admissions process
• Scheduling • Referrals team • Efficiency of processes


The same approach needs to be taken when assessing the attitudes of employed physicians. The key elements of SMD’s Em­ployed Physician Survey™ are focused on Leadership, Culture, Support, and Overall perceptions of the healthcare organization.

• Leadership: Being informed, feeling valued
• Support: Quality of nurses, clinical support lab tests
• Overall: Quality of hospital, quality of administration • Culture: Mission-focused, dealing well with families, handling disruptive behavior

Purposeful Process:

There are important elements to consider and make certain that they are a part of your com­plete physician survey process.

  • Survey Execution: You need to offer multiple ways for physicians to take the survey to maxi­mize participation, especially when executing an affiliated survey.
  • Integration: Integrate the employed physician survey with your current employee survey (“branching” also possible) and connect responses from physicians and employee data using advanced analytics to understand how the critical groups impact each other.
  • Benchmarking: SMD has surveyed thousands of physicians and provides the physician benchmark in our reporting tool. We don’t recommend basing strategy on benchmarks, but it is good to have a comparison point.
  • Timing: Ensure you’re able to run it simultaneously with the employee survey, for a signifi­cant saving on time and money
  • Advanced Research: SMD provides on-staff Ph.D.s to conduct the cause-effect analytics to connect your survey data to real business outcomes (referrals, retention and HCAHPS).
  • Customized Action Planning: Generic physician action-planning tips and best practices are fine but being able to customize them with your own best practices and learning manage­ment system takes the process to a new level.
  • Fast Results Turnaround Time: Get results delivered to you in two days. Waiting months for results will just invalidate your process and minimize your impact.
  • Survey Validation: Be certain that your physician survey items have been criterion-validated against actual business outcomes, so you know the items assess business drivers.
  • Year-Round Analytics & Support: Your survey provider must look for opportunities to con­nect the physician survey data to new and various business outcome data throughout the year.