Patient Survey Design 101: The GP Patient Survey

I’m currently working with a GP friend who wants to install a tablet based solution in his NHS waiting room.

The idea is to help patients make use of their waiting time, share their history before meeting with the Doctor, to provide informational videos and run various patient surveys.

Last week he got in touch with me regarding “The GP Patient Survey” that is being run by Ipsos MORI for the NHS. It’s a very straightforward 8 page survey but it asks some very poorly worded questions and gives a great example of how not to survey patients eg. Question 35:

Have your activities been limited today because you have recently become unwell or been injured? (By ‘unwell or injured’ we mean anything that lasts for a few days or weeks, eg. a bad cold or broken leg)

Yes, limited a lot
Yes, limited a little
No

As you can see it’s a really poor 1998 style survey and the only thing remotely interesting about it is how it’s being managed. This particular patient is repeatedly being posted more copies of the same document to complete. In between the arrival of these they’re getting phone calls asking them to complete the form because the last one “must have got lost somewhere in the post”.

The patient smelt something funny was going on when they completed the 3rd copy of the form and asked their GP about why this was happening, uncertain he asked me what I thought.

I’m not entirely sure but it seems like there is some gaming going on. The GP Patient Survey results are being delivered from 100-200 patient panels so encouraging repeat submission of very positive forms is one very obvious way of getting a boost for the practice and in turn keeping the practice supportive of the initiative. I’ve asked for more details and I’ve devised a plan to see if we can find out what’s really going on.

In the meantime I thought I’d also put it out here on the blog to see if anyone else is encountering similar problems, or is much smarter than us and knows what’s really going on…

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