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Whether you’re doing medical research in a university, hospital, or small clinic, surveys can be critical to understanding the population you serve.

Using surveys makes it easy to collect and analyze data for anything from basic research to clinical trials to epidemiological studies.

Here are some ideas and best practices to help medical researchers and healthcare workers use online healthcare surveys effectively.

The healthcare community’s efforts to improve lives around the world yield a huge, diverse body of medical research. When you’re trying to understand patient outcomes, collect health statistics, or gather data from members of the medical community, online surveys are often the best way to conduct your research.

In our recent study of U.S. healthcare providers, two-thirds of respondents reported using surveys to measure patient feedback. More than half measure employee satisfaction, and a third use surveys to monitor patients’ diet and health habits.

If you need to get a questionnaire in front of a specific population, SurveyMonkey Audience can help. Give us your criteria, and we’ll find the right respondents. From polling physicians to getting feedback from groups of people based on location, income, and shopping habits, we have millions of respondents who are ready to help.

Here are a few smart ways to use surveys for medical research:

If you’re a researcher or healthcare provider, use surveys to explore potential benefits and barriers to healthcare access among groups like senior citizens or low-income families. You might also want to research the healthcare needs of specific populations, such as those living in rural areas or inner cities.

Is your organization a well-oiled machine, or are there squeaky wheels? Send out an online survey questionnaire to get full insight into each staff member’s role, the effectiveness of existing processes, and to identify any deficiencies. Are there opportunities to decrease spending? Should you become more visible in the community? Are there best practices to share across your organization? When it comes to healthcare employee engagement, surveys can get you answers.

Are your patients satisfied by the care given by physicians and nurses? Was the appointment on-time, and did the patient feel that their needs were met by clinician they visited? Send out a healthcare questionnaire after each patient interaction to continuously make improvements based on the feedback shared by your patients.

Patient advocacy groups, insurers, and employers can all deploy surveys to poll prospective enrollees on possible changes to insurance plans or features that might meet their healthcare needs more closely. Insurers can survey their enrollees to learn more about factors influencing selection, expectations, renewal, and healthcare utilization. An online survey can help pin down whether or not enrollees are satisfied with their access to preventative care and wellness services, and how they feel about the availability of benefits information.

What are the varying needs and medical priorities of women in different age groups? How do they feel about the care they receive? What are the concerns of pregnant women? Collect feedback from a pregnancy and childbirth education seminar or analyze a hospital experience in the maternity ward. Uncover any opportunities for enhancements and improvements by sending out an online survey.

Hospitals or other organizations conducting medical missions or participating in community service can coordinate their programs by sending out a survey. For instance, a teaching hospital can pool the resources, opinions, and ideas of medical professionals to develop community education programs and assess the health needs of local populations.

Track patient satisfaction by asking for feedback after office visits or hospital stays. Ask patients to give feedback on their interactions with staff, medical technicians, physicians, and nurses. Send out a survey asking about possible improvements to waiting rooms, check-in procedures, appointment-setting, cleanliness, and more. Find out if patients would benefit from online access to their medical records or appointment information.

To get reliable results, and for accreditation and compliance purposes, try using CAHPS and HCAHPS patient satisfaction templates.

Hospitals can gauge interest in patient program offerings, such as health and nutrition classes, smoking cessation, stress reduction, weight loss, overcoming insomnia, anxiety management, childbirth, or pain management for chronic conditions.

Assess the health habits of youth and teens with a questionnaire that tracks teenager activities. Anonymously calculate tobacco and recreational drug use rates, and discover potential school bullying problems or family health issues that could cause emotional issues. Use online teen surveys to reach to at-risk teens, and develop helpful programs.

Are patients satisfied with the service options for obtaining their medications? Do patients prefer automatic refills to be shipped to their home, or would they rather pick it up at a local pharmacy? Are wait times reasonable; are pharmacists able to answer all of patients’ questions regarding contraindications? Do patients feel they have access to the information they need about their medications? Send an online survey to find out.

HMOs and PPOs commonly send out surveys to learn more about the health-related needs and interests of the members in their community. Aiming to uncover insights about their members’ preferences on healthcare service delivery, organizations need to gather sound evidence to make better decisions, and support research that will ultimately improve each member’s quality of life.

Are you a nonprofit or NGO working in a disaster-stricken area? Quickly triage the healthcare needs of disaster survivors with an online questionnaire. Track medical history, vaccinations, immunizations, and more. Make field hospital relief efforts more effective by allocating medical resources to the patients most in-need.

Keep these factors in mind to ensure you get the highest response rates possible.

Target population: If you’re trying to gather responses from a hard-to-reach population—say, single parents living in a specific geographic region—consider using SurveyMonkey Audience, the perfect way to reach qualified survey takers who meet your specific targeting criteria.

Question clarity: Will you be asking respondents to simply answer straightforward questions or will you ask them to undergo multiple tasks, like visiting a web site and then asking them to weigh in? Clearer, more succinct questions tend to get better results, so keep it simple.

Survey length: Be mindful of your respondents’ time, and keep the length reasonable. On average, this means it should take anywhere from 5-15 minutes to complete. If you are trying to optimize for completed survey responses, try to keep your survey short. Consider using skip logic to shorten a survey—this will allow respondents to navigate to only to the questions relevant to them.

Reminder emails: A gentle nudge to respondents will certainly help improve response rates. You can send email reminders to those who have not yet answered your first invitation through the SurveyMonkey Email Collector.

From sample size to reducing bias, check out more survey best practices.

Keeping sensitive health information private is key component of good research. That’s why SurveyMonkey supports surveys that collect protected health information. If you’re a covered entity regulated by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) and want to collect protected health information in your healthcare or medical research surveys, please see our HIPAA Compliance at SurveyMonkey page for more details.

We make it simple to create and send secure medical research questionnaires. We also give you powerful tools to analyze your results and show off your results. As the world’s leading survey platform, we have thousands of satisfied healthcare customers including Kaiser Permanente, Anthem Blue Cross and the American Red Cross.

Some medical research is so specific it requires custom surveys, but there are many situations where you can save time and get more reliable results by using an expert survey template. From patient safety culture to patient feedback to collecting demographic information, here are some templates developed by healthcare professionals to give your research a head start:

Identify safety issues and reduce risks by surveying hospital staff. This comprehensive survey was designed by the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

Bolster your research by asking about every aspect of a patient’s care over the past year. Designed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Research the behavior and health risks to a given population by understanding the roles of diet and exercise.

Or choose an example from the rest of our library of medical research survey templates:

Measuring quality of care to improve the patient experience

Healthcare leaders can use this toolkit to help better understand the patient and employee experience.

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