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HealthEast Care System

Using Real-Time Patient Feedback to Improve Patient Experience

In 2012, St. Joseph’s and St. John’s Hospitals, both part of HealthEast Care System, began using real-time patient feedback to improve the experience of patients in inpatient and outpatient mental health and addiction care units. Joe Clubb, Director of Mental Health & Addiction Care at HealthEast, describes their project.

What was the challenge to be solved?

Our survey completion rate was very low using the existing survey tool (it was too long, paper-based, and sent through the mail). This made it challenging to identify areas for improvement and engage employees in creating meaningful plans to improve the experience of patients. 

What strategy was used to solve the challenge?

Our team contracted with Vertical Systems (already in use at HealthEast’s Bethesda Hospital) to implement its TruthPoint online survey, which patients are encouraged to complete using secured laptops while engaged in treatment and care. They also have the option to request a visit or follow-up call from leadership. The survey was significantly shortened, going from 48 to 25 questions (13 for inpatient mental health).


Since the new process has been in place, our survey completion rate went from 3 percent with Picker to 43 percent with TruthPoint. Leaders receive regular reports and see all patient comments. The information is also made available in a variety of ways to staff, clinicians and providers. “Kudos reports” offer real-time feedback, enabling us to quickly identify improvement areas. Leaders review results on a quarterly basis, creating action plans for improvement and making revisions to the survey as needed. For example, patients can now provide their email address to receive 48-hour appointment reminders and the opportunity to send in health concerns they want to focus on at their upcoming appointment.

When we started this survey process, our focus was on the positive comments we received. Later we were able to start digging into the negative comments. Based on the feedback, we’ve seen employees changing their behavior to help patients feel more at ease. We are also making changes to the environment based on patient input, adding exercise equipment and a safe garden area to help relieve stress and give mental health patients the chance to be outside.

Lessons Learned and Next Steps

To address confidentiality issues for mental health inpatients who require assistance completing the survey, we are recruiting volunteers to assist them rather than relying on hospital staff. We also reduced the survey frequency, now offering it on day four and at discharge, and moved from generalized questions to ones segmented by discipline, allowing us to better identify the area referred to in the feedback. Based on the success of the pilot, we are looking into expanding it to medical-surgical units.


If you want to learn more about HealthEast’s project, contact Joe Clubb or 651-232-3256.