What Exactly is Secret Patient Shopping?

Secret patient, or “mystery” shopping, is a recognized, highly efficient and cost-effective tool to measure performance for healthcare and many other organizations. A healthcare mystery shopper is a trained professional who visits a location (typically a hospital, clinic, doctor’s office, etc.) for the purpose of observing and measuring the patient/visitor experience, including service, quality of care, and the environment.

Shoppers are given details and specific standards of performance by which to measure or audit observations during their visits to, or interactions with, the facility (some shops are online and/or via telephone). The shoppers then complete reports, using a web-based form, after leaving the facility. Shoppers serve as the eyes and ears for clients as part of their efforts to enhance the quality of the patient experience.

If you’re not measuring caregiver and support staff performance, the patient experience suffers. In today’s competitive healthcare environment, it’s more important than ever to know how you are treating your patients and visitors on a daily basis. Simply having expectations about what sort of experience your patients and visitors will have is not enough, you must measure and inspect. Objective, anonymous and third-party assessments, utilizing established performance metrics, will provide the information you need to ensure that desired compliance standards are met.

In fact, the AMA’s Ethical & Judicial Affairs report recently concluded that, “Physicians have an ethical responsibility to engage in activities that contribute to continual improvements in patient care. One method for promoting such quality improvement is through the use of secret shopper “patients” who have been appropriately trained to provide feedback about performance in the clinical setting.”

Who Benefits from Secret Patient Shopping?

All organizations involved in caring for others need to know how well their staff and facilities are performing. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Hospitals
  • Doctors’ Offices / Specialty Clinics
  • Assisted Living / Memory Care Communities
  • Hospice Care / Nursing Homes
  • Managed Care / Health Insurance Providers
  • City, State, and Federal Healthcare Regulatory Agencies
  • Medicare / Medicaid Sales
  • Customer Support Call & Message Centers

What Are the Benefits?

Data obtained from secret patient shopping can help in a variety of ways, such as:

  • Improving the patient and visitor experience across touch points
  • Ensuring regulatory compliance and identifying fraud
  • Increasing patient loyalty and advocacy
  • Reducing patient defections and re-admissions
  • Improving sales agent relationship building and sales skills
  • Providing managers and supervisors with a coaching tool to improve employee performance
  • Helping to clearly define best practices for caregivers
  • Raising patient satisfaction scores
  • Assessing competitor performance to pinpoint strengths and weaknesses
  • and many more…

How It’s Done

Verify HealthCare shopper audits are conducted anonymously by our trained, educated, and experienced professionals. Our shoppers use objective criteria, based upon clearly defined and weighted performance standards, to provide a detailed snapshot of the patient experience. This includes informative narratives that describe emotional responses to the experience.

Shoppers are often selected to represent the demographics of the region, and they know how to accurately document interactions and other specific details during their encounters with caregivers. They use specific criteria and scenarios provided by the client to evaluate those details.

When a shop is completed, the results are posted in real time via our secure, web-based dashboard, which our clients have access to 24/7. We then schedule interviews with managers and staff to summarize operational issues and concerns, highlight strengths and weaknesses, and provide recommendations for improvement.

Bottom Line?

Our shoppers don’t just uncover problem areas; they also identify the elements that contribute to a positive patient experience. The wealth of data collected by Verify HealthCare mystery shoppers allows healthcare organizations to continually evolve their delivery of services and best practices to meet and exceed consumer expectations. Because of this ability to produce a true-to-life picture of a customer’s experience, mystery shopping is rapidly becoming a must-have tool in patient satisfaction strategies worldwide.

Measurement Tools

View this short video to understand our measurement tools in more detail: