Surveys 101 – Spotlight on Willard Hom, MBA


Surveys abound in optometric practice. They are used frequently for customer satisfaction and market research. The Tips4EyeDocs Spotlight is on Willard Hom, MBA who will unravel the art and science of surveys. Mr. Hom is a published author in academic journals and was a member of the American Statistical Association. His love for this science grew from his 30+ years of public service which culminated as the Director, Research and Planning at the Chancellor’s Office for the California Community Colleges. He continues to work in research as a consultant with WestEd, an educational think tank.

Q1 – Why do we do we use patient satisfaction surveys

The provider usually wants to know how it is doing with its patients beyond the usual health assessments and diagnoses. Such surveys help the provider to retain patients as customers (a business decision) and to help patients to follow a healthy regimen. If the survey informs the provider about how it can obtain from patients timely office visits, compliance with doctor’s orders, and family support (or other supports), for example, then patients may have a high probability of attaining healthy outcomes. A real, but less meritorious, reason for surveys is to indicate to the public, especially to patients, that the provider follows good business practices and that it cares. Unless the concern is genuine, this last motive has less value from the public health viewpoint.

Q2 – What can doctors help in doing surveys

The doctors should participate in the planning and analysis of the surveys but delegate the task to an expert third party. The doctors should also read the results and try to use them. The delegation of planning, execution, and analysis of the survey to an independent and expert third party helps assure to others (and the doctor) that the survey data and analysis are valid and unbiased. Doctors can help in the survey project by respecting confidentiality and by understanding the issue of different perceptions that patients may have about offices and personnel. Most importantly, doctors can help surveys succeed by establishing the objective of the survey and its desired consequences early in the survey planning process.  It’s worth repeating that doctors will support the validity of the survey data by refraining from (a) influencing patients that doctors know will be surveyed and (b) using the survey process itself to market a service or product.

Q3 – How can it be applied/executed

Surveys currently use multiple contact modes to obtain the most valid survey responses. This “mixed mode” strategy allows the survey administrator the ability to exploit the strengths of the different survey modes (such as in-person, mail, internet, and phone) and mitigate the weaknesses of the modes. There may be a best mix of modes for each study situation so it isn’t helpful to prescribe one mode over the others. When the provider authorizes and funds the survey project at an adequate level, the provider will receive data and analysis that should address the pre-defined decisions or questions.

About Richard Hom OD, MPA

Dr. Hom holds Doctor of Optometry and Masters in Public Administration degrees and practices family eye care and consults on public policy, health information technology and program evaluation.
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