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How can I identify my patients’ and consumers’ expectations about the service and care they receive in the ED?

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The care and services delivered at a facility can be significantly improved if you know what your customers want. Some ways nurse managers can identify patient and consumer expectations are with survey tools, focus groups, market evaluation, and candid discussions with patients.

  • Survey tools can provide helpful feedback. For example, patient surveys not only elicit invaluable patient input, but also offer patients an opportunity to share their experiences and opinions anonymously. Some departments focus patient surveys on specific consumer populations. For example, physician consumers—or community-based providers who refer their patients to the emergency department—are provided with surveys to fill out in order to obtain another view of the quality and effectiveness of the service provided by the emergency department.
  • Focus groups are a great way to gain information and insight about patients' perceptions of the department you run. Typically, focus groups involve community representatives (e.g., past patients, physician consumers) and managers and are run by dynamic professionals with leadership skills. Keep in mind that information collected in focus groups can be very useful for the department's marketing efforts.
  • Market evaluation studies scrutinize changes in the community or service area of the organization. For instance, a market evaluation study will identify patient demographics, physician resources, and other referral sources. Such evaluations typically survey emergency medical services agencies, long-term care providers, and other acute-care agencies. By understanding the market the emergency department must serve, you will meet the needs of the community and increase customer satisfaction.

—Brandon G. Bennett, MSN, RN