Better care through patient feedback

 

Patient, student, teacher, resident, customer… whichever label you choose, it’s important to remember that feedback is important, and helps us to measure how well we are performing in the eyes of those we serve.

At the heart of any business or organisation, if you want to build something successful, you have to keep the users of your product or service happy and content. As a doctor, you may well think, “A patient has no choice but to use hospitals, there is no alternative.” Whilst that may be true, why then do institutions such as the NHS place such a high value on patient feedback? The simple answer is that they want to deliver the best treatment possible. Delving deeper into the issue, the longer a patient remains in the hospital occupying a bed, the greater the impact they will have upon the NHS budget.

NHS practitioners therefore want to provide the best treatment and services possible when a patient is under their care, which would then enable a patient to be discharged early to continue care from home, if need be. Whilst this is cheaper, many patients would rather receive treatment at home rather than in a hospital; from a resources point of view, this would enable the treatment of more patients within a shorter time period.

Admirably, the NHS has already set the ball rolling with the NHS Feedback Challenge initiative. If you are a health professional, you’ll probably have a good understanding of what this is all about.  As a brief overview, it is simply “to support the spread of great approaches which use feedback from patients to improve services.”

Beyond the patient
Of course, feedback is important for other people alongside patients, too: feedback from students allows the improvement of teaching methods; feedback from residents in care homes improves the services and attention they receive. As you might expect, feedback results will rarely indicate that everything is running perfectly and smoothly, instead highlighting that there is always something that could be changed for the better. Action plans from feedback results usually result in a change in a certain process, better lines of communication or even improved staff training. In other cases, it can also cause major structural alterations and complete changes in the ethos of the organisation. Rightly, people demand more from the taxes they pay to fund public sector services. This means feedback should not be a one off thing; it should be on-going, or at least done regularly.

What to consider when collecting feedback
Unfortunately, trying to get feedback from somebody can be difficult. Even though feedback is for their own benefit, many of those providing feedback may, understandably, not find it the most enthralling process. In addition, many people may feel as though a feedback survey is done just for the sake of it, with answers having no impact on further actions. In some cases, this may be down the method of feedback survey implementation. For a successful survey, we’d therefore recommend you consider some of the following factors:

1. End Users: Simple factors such as age, gender, ethnicity and others can have an impact upon the most effective shape of your feedback survey. Start by profiling the people that will be giving their feedback. As you might expect, knowing who you are taking feedback from will then allow everything else to fall in place if you can use that information wisely.

2. Design: The design should fit the end user. Let’s consider the example of patients in hospitals, who often come from widely varied walks of life. Hospitals need to cater for all age ranges, as well as the different conditions each patient faces. Some ideas could include using a happy or sad face for children or patients with reading difficulties, large fonts for those with sight difficulties and so forth. Customising the design with reference to your end user will lead to greater involvement.

3. Technology: Many organisations have jumped on the tablet bandwagon expecting immediate, improved respondent results. Whilst we certainly have no doubt that tablets and kiosks are useful, they must be put into context. You can’t realistically hand stroke survivors a tablet, nor can you ask a person who has just had knee surgery to go to a kiosk. On occasions, paper surveys will be the most efficient, particularly when automated document scanning allows such rapid information capture.

With our vast practical knowledge in collecting patient feedback and experiences, we can guide and advise you on your patient experience program if you need a hand. We can supply all of the hardware or software you require, and can automate the data collection from this so that any areas requiring extra care and attention can be highlighted as quickly as possible.

Is your patient happy? Let’s find out together…