PURPOSE. To identify, compare and prioritize issues identified by patients that affect their perception of their experience and to improve those measures in the context of available resources. METHOD. The survey tool, developed by the Picker Institute, questions the elements of a patient experiences that are universal across all medical specialties. Hence, only minor modifications were made to the survey for our academic eye care facility. The survey was mailed to randomly selected patients 18 years old and older for a period of one year with a response rate of 40%. Picker provided benchmarks, the best score of their clients, and the average score for all their clients for each measure. Our comparison group included other ambulatory care facilities that are based in an education institution. The survey information identified the courtesy and helpfulness of the office staff and organization of the office as high priority areas. Efforts to improve included decentralization of registration and support functions, computer and customer service training and a limited number of personnel changes.
RESULTS. The courtesy of the office staff problem score improved from 19.6% to 9.0% which is the Picker client average. The organization of the office score improved from 29.5% to 16.7%, which is better than the Picker client average. The score for "would you recommend to family and friends" improved by 12 points which is better than the Picker client average. All changes were statistically significant (p<0.05).
CONCLUSIONS. The use of the Picker tool is unique to optometry. Its use allows comparisons to the other types of experiences patients may have in health care. Patient satisfaction information along with comparison to similar health care facilities is important to guide cost-effective performance improvement efforts that can have a significant impact on patient perceptions of care and referral rates.