April 2011
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In This Issue
Surveying your referral sources? Look for the gold, and polish the diamonds!
In the Best Practices...
Q & A: CG-CAHPS Update
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Welcome to the Spring edition of our BENCHMARK newsletter! This quarter, we explain why referring physician surveys are important; Spotlight Family Care Specialists simple and "green-friendly" approach to policy

acknowledgement; and provide an update on the CGCAPS survey instrument.  


Please feel free to forward this letter to your friends and colleagues.


- The SullivanLuallin Team

Surveying your referral sources?  Look for the gold, and polish the diamonds!



"So Dr. Crabwell doesn't like our phone system...well, he's only one person so let's not do anything about it."


Wrong.  When you're talking about feedback from referring doctors, every comment is a priority - Dr. Crabwell could be worth a dozen referrals each year, and that's worth treating his comment as a strong indicator of his future revenue potential.


Not so with patient surveys - they're all about sample size, t-scores and standard deviations.  We care whether the scores are "statistically projectable across our entire patient base," and whether sampling bias is affecting the validity of the findings.


But reading your referring primary care physician (PCP) survey is more like mining for gold - every nugget is a keeper!  And some nuggets are more like uncut diamonds than others.


After conducting referring physician surveys for more than 20 years, we've found that there are certain questions that have high priority with primary care doctors, but seem to result in frequent low scores.  Once you know what your PCPs think, you can turn that rough stone into a polished gem!


For example, one question many specialist physicians want to know is how satisfied their referring physicians are with "Our ability to offer your patient a timely appointment."  Every respondent who circles either "Fair" or "Poor" is very likely to have at least one foot on the path toward your competitor who has open slots in the schedule.


Solution?  Ask yourself, are you being too specialized in terms of clinical cases you're willing to see?  Have you brought in a mid-level to help? Have you recruited another physician and extended your hours by splitting your shifts?


Another question that indicates whether you'll see more referrals from your primary care doctor sources is "timeliness of patient status reports."  As one physician told us, "I hate to run into a patient who knows more about her visit than I do a week after I've referred her to a specialist!" 


Solution? Include a question on the survey that asks the referring physician how s/he prefers to receive the status note. If you're not already connected through your hospital's EHR system, consider email or faxing to your referrers.


What are your PCPs' hot buttons?  You won't know unless you ask!  For a copy of the SullivanLuallin MGMA referring physician survey, email info@sullivan-luallin.com and put "referring physician survey" in the subject line.


In the Best Practices... 


As mystery patients, we're always "new" patients to a practice and asked to read and complete reams of paperwork.  One group, Family Care Specialists, with 30+ providers at four sites in Los Angeles, CA, has a unique answer.  They list most of their policies concisely on one sheet of paper next to boxes to be initialed by the patient.  Not only does this strategy cut down on paper, but it ensures that patients have seen the group's important policies at the outset of the relationship with the practice.


Q & A: CG-CAHPS Update


Q.  I'm hearing more and more buzz about the CG-CAHPS form for patient surveys.  What exactly is it and what will it mean for our eight-physician Internal Medicine group?


A.  The Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (CAHPS) program is a public-private initiative to develop standardized surveys of patients' experiences with ambulatory and facility-level care.  The CAHPS program is funded and administered by the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), which works closely with a consortium of public and private organizations.


Currently there are several pilot survey projects underway with very large multi-specialty medical groups participating to learn the feasibility of using the CG-CAHPS instrument and its distribution methodology.  While there is no current government (CMS) requirement to use the CG-CAHPS survey instrument for reporting purposes (as there is with the H-CAHPS for hospital patient surveying) we wouldn't rule out that possibility in the future.  SullivanLuallin fields all survey types including the CG-CAHPS instrument.


For further information you can consult the CAHPS website at www.cahps.ahrq.gov/ or give us a call and ask for Tom Jeffrey, our resident expert.  Tom's e-mail is



Have a question you'd like our team to answer? Email us!

SullivanLuallin specializes in patient satisfaction services, and is the premier healthcare customer service consulting firm in the nation. For over 25 years, we've helped physician practices implement Customer Service Initiatives that produce immediate improvement and ongoing results. Clients come to us for on-site and web-based Customer Service training, Shadow Coaching for low-scoring physicians, Mystery Patient/Mystery Caller assessments, and Customer Satisfaction surveys.

Dr. Alt