What is a Good Survey Response Rate?

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Survey response rate is calculated by dividing the number of survey responses received by the total number of surveys sent within a timeframe.  

Survey response rate can be an indicator of how successful your survey efforts are. The more responses you collect, the more data you have to evaluate and improve your services and processes.  

While a high survey response rate is desirable, it is not completely controllable. Good news is, there are a variety of factors that can be influenced. Medical practices can establish a ballpark range for realistic expectations by being aware of recent survey response rate metrics, and key influencing factors. 

How should you interpret your response rate?  

First, it is important to state that the total number of survey responses is more important than the survey response rate. The more responses you collect, the more data you have, and that is more important than the overall response rate.  

Take two example practices: 

  • One practice surveys over 100,000 patients and receives 10,000 responses (a 10% response rate).
  • Another practice surveys 1,000 patients and receives 300 responses (a 30% response rate). 


The larger practice with a 10% response rate will have more overall data to use for analysis. Typically, the more data you have, the more accurate your results will be, regardless of response rate. 
That said, having a few benchmarks for survey response rates can be helpful to gauge expectations. Further, understanding how to improve response rates even slightly can help you collect a meaningful amount of data. 

Excellent Survey Response Rate 

A majority of the time, a survey response rate of 50% or more can be considered excellent.  A response rate of over 50% implies that patients felt particularly inclined to complete the patient satisfaction survey. This could be based on several factors.

For example, the relationship a patient has with their care provider or staff member could influence their willingness to complete a survey.  Depending on the medical specialty, this direct patient interaction can vary and should be taken into consideration when setting expectations for survey response rate.

Typical Survey Response Rate 

Survey response rates between 5% to 30% are considered a far more typical range for medical practices and businesses alike. At ClearSurvey, we suggest setting a response rate goal of around 10-20 percent with the understanding that this percentage should vary. As mentioned, a variety of factors influence response rates, and some factors are more easily controlled than others. 

Factors That Affect Patient Satisfaction Survey Response Rates 

Distribution method

How surveys are distributed to patients has a significant impact on response rate. Many healthcare surveys are traditionally sent to patients by mail (such as the HCAHPS). By contrast, online surveys have advantages over mail-in surveys. 

Online surveys save time and money 

Online surveys can be distributed with fewer resources. Printing, mailing, and then recording responses is considerably less efficient than using online surveys where data such as who was surveyed, when, and their responses can all be automatically recorded in a database. 

Online surveys also save time for respondents. As online access is more pervasive, online surveys allow patients to easily submit their responses from their smartphone or laptop, rather than finding time to fill out a paper survey by hand and remember to mail it back.   

Online surveys reach a broader population than mail-in surveys 

Since online surveys use fewer resources (time, money, and manual data entry), they can be leveraged to reach and gather feedback from more patients. 

Online survey response rates are higher than mail-in surveys 

A patient will be much more inclined to respond to your medical practice’s patient satisfaction survey after being fresh out of their appointment, as opposed to mail-in surveys which will appear at their doorstep or mailbox weeks after their visit. Online surveys delivered through SMS or email channels can reach patients in a much more timely manner.

A leading indicator for response rate is open rate – after all, a patient needs to access the survey before responding. With open rates as high as 98%, SMS can be a strong option to increase the likelihood of a patient responding to a survey.

With ClearSurvey, you can reach your patients via both email and SMS online channels.

Survey length

Survey length and complexity can affect survey response rates. If a respondent opens the survey but finds the survey to be too time-consuming, they may abandon it altogether. Complex questions, or just too many questions, in your patient satisfaction survey can yield far lower response rates than simpler questions with direct answer choices.  

Read more about survey best practices and question types. 

Demographics 

Demographics such as age can influence survey response rates. Millennials and baby boomers are more likely to see higher survey responses than senior citizens aged 65 and older. While surveying the patient population is still important, you may take demographics into consideration when evaluating your response rate.

Relationship 

How would you characterize your medical practice’s relationship with its patients – is it warm and friendly, or straight to business? Patients are more likely to respond to patient satisfaction surveys when there is an established relationship between the patient and your medical practice. Even letting your patients know that they can expect a survey after their visit can improve the likelihood that they take the time to respond and provide feedback.

Medical specialties with limited personal interactions with patients have fewer opportunities to forge strong relationships with them. While this patient-provider relationship can vary, it should be taken into consideration when setting expectations for survey response rate.  

How ClearSurvey Can Help 

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ClearSurvey is a best-in-class survey system focused on helping medical practices offer the best patient satisfaction in healthcare. We can help you develop a custom survey question-set based on your goals so you can gather data for useful insights. Learn more about how ClearSurvey can elevate your practice or schedule a demo today

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