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Q&A: How can EMTs monitor and enhance patient satisfaction?

Learn why EMT Michael Flanagan of Feedback Innovations developed patient satisfaction surveys to enable agencies to measure their level of service


Sponsored by Feedback Innovations

By Victoria Mack for EMS1 BrandFocus

For most agencies, determining whether patients are satisfied with the service EMTs provide is a matter of guesswork.

EMT Michael Flanagan developed Feedback Innovations' patient satisfaction surveys. (photo/Feedback Innovations)
EMT Michael Flanagan developed Feedback Innovations' patient satisfaction surveys. (photo/Feedback Innovations)

Former EMT and Feedback Innovations co-founder Michael Flanagan knew from first-hand experience that gathering and reporting data would provide the information agencies needed to improve their methodologies.

Flanagan explained how his company’s patient satisfaction surveys were engineered and how they benefit patients and agencies.

Q1: When you were an EMT, how was patient satisfaction measured?

A1: About 20 years ago, I became an EMT and then a paramedic. The best part of the job is taking care of sick people, making a difference in their healthcare during their time of need. But one of the worst parts was the lack of a systematic way to assess performance.

Whether EMTs were performing well or badly was based on reputation and hearsay, not tangible data. There was no formalized effort to measure patient satisfaction. The only feedback came from happy or unhappy patients calling or sending a letter. The job is stressful, sometimes with no reward or recognition from patients or supervisors. I recognized that other EMTs felt the same frustration.

Q2: What was the catalyst that led you to founding Feedback Innovations?

A2: While working in a hospital, I discovered that it was required to use a program to measure patient satisfaction. That’s what sparked my idea. I collaborated with another EMT, Bill Mergendahl, and he agreed to become my business partner. We launched the Feedback Innovations survey program in June 2011.

Q3: Why is measuring patient satisfaction important?

A3: A patient satisfaction survey helps pinpoint problems in patient satisfaction so they can be fixed and shows patients, the community, and employees that improvement matters—ultimately leading to a better health result for the patient.

Q4: How does Feedback Innovations connect with an agency’s patient?

A4: We access the patient’s electronic patient care record (ePCR) via an encrypted connection from the EMS agency, strictly adhering to HIPAA requirements. We gather initial patient information, such as age and gender, and then mail a survey to the patient, who has the option to either fill out the paper survey or go online to a secure website to complete the survey.

Q5: What questions does a patient satisfaction survey ask?

A5: The patient satisfaction survey focuses on the service provided. There are 21 standard questions relating to the history of an ambulance call, but agencies can implement custom questions, too. Questions include how helpful dispatch was, such as whether a patient received advice about what to do while waiting for the ambulance to arrive.

Other questions specifically address the patient’s experience with the ambulance crew, such as whether the patient was kept informed during every step of the process, whether pain was controlled, and more.

Q6: What type of report does the agency receive?

A6: After recording the survey’s data, we email the agency a standard PDF report monthly. For example, a Comments report divulges comments patients write in; a Provider Overview looks at the agency’s employees; and the Statistics report is a benchmark comparison of the agency against other agencies. Agencies also have access to a custom reporting tool. They can go into the system and set up their own queries.

Q7: Have you seen disparities between surveys and reality of service?

A7: Some potential clients are afraid of knowing patients’ impressions, but our clients find that comments are more positive than they would have guessed. The perception is out there in the public anyway, so it’s to the agency’s benefit to know what issues need to be resolved. The value is in the data.

Q8: How do patients benefit from the information revealed in the survey?

A8: Patients benefit because agencies are striving to improve patient satisfaction, and surveys help them determine areas of improvement for better patient care.

Q9: How do agencies benefit from the information revealed in the survey?

A9: Agencies benefit because the Feedback Innovations system is designed to provide a complete picture of patient satisfaction. Agencies can drill down to, for example, individual employees or specific vehicles. With that information, agencies can implement methods for improvement.

Q10: What kind of feedback do you get from the agencies that use the program?

A10: One client told us they realized they needed to update driver training when a patient complained that the driver didn’t take a direct route to the hospital because the GPS took them the long way. Agencies appreciate the Provider report because they can use it for annual evaluations; everything an employee does on a service call is on record.

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