The Kings Fund is an independent charity set up in order to ensure delivery of the best possible healthcare system to all. As part of their work to improve patient experiences and care provision, the charity recently held two one-day conferences, looking at Patient Voice and Power in the NHS and Transforming Patient Experience. Together, these considered how the NHS can move forward in improving patient experience and care, and came at a timely moment given the recent attention patient experience and healthcare complaints have been exposed to at the forefront of the health agenda. For those who were unable to attend the events or interested in the issues raised, here are our thoughts around the presentations and individual conversations on both days.
Patient Voice and Power in the NHS
An idea that has been gathering increasing favour in recent years has been the suggestion that the most appropriate means of improving patient experience within the healthcare setting will be to place the power in patients’ hands, allowing them to influence change. Adding weight to these suggestions were a number of different speakers, both current and former patients, known collectively as ‘expert patient leaders’. Co-directors Mark Doughtly and David Gilbert from the Centre for Patient Leadership, advocates of patient leadership and former patients themselves, shared how the CPL is attempting to train patients how to become patient leaders who will be able to guide care reforms. Additionally, other speakers gave differing accounts of their own patient experiences, and their visions for the future.
An interesting issue raised during these discussions was that professional healthcare providers are paid to sit upon a board guiding improved patient experiences, an area where many feel they are failing. By contrast, patient leaders sitting on the board are not paid – so should they be?
The day concluded that if patient experience is to be improved, the answers are likely to remain with patients themselves. Information should be collected on a large scale through focus groups and guided by patient-led initiatives that have the power to direct change. The more data collected, the more accurate the picture will be on effective patient experience improvements to be made.
Transforming Patient Experience
Whilst the first day of the Kings Fund conference considered how patients want to be heard, the second day considered how to transform such information to action within the new NHS structure. Further expert patients shared their experiences, whilst doctors and surgeons discussed their own opinions on the issues raised.
Whilst some patient stories demonstrated excellent care, others left audiences shocked and surprised that current systems of care had failed so drastically. Charles Ellis, a former NHS manager who had been forced into early retirement on health grounds due to the loss of vision in one eye and the diagnosis of multiple sclerosis with the space of a year, shared his own experiences. After multiple relapses that led to the loss of leg functionality, Charles had to stay in hospital for six months. Through this time, he experienced a nightmare series of events that demonstrated a lack of communication, understanding and sympathy from staff members, as well as poor hygiene, resulting in a sudden and significant loss of weight.
Speakers from Alder Hey children’s hospital in Liverpool also gave their own accounts of the care children had received. Tragically, some had told children to lie about the levels of pain they were in, playing on their urgency to want to return home, whilst other accounts shared how children were left crying without any attention paid to them. By contrast, other children at the same hospital had only positive stories to share demonstrating excellent care provisions. This contrast in care standards, even within the same institutions, reveals one of the most endemic challenges in improving patient experiences.
Invariably, a good standard of care revolves around improved communication with patients. Whilst this may take the form of listening to patients’ needs, communication must go one step further. A consultant orthopaedic surgeon at Aneurin Bevan Local Health Board, Hiro Tanaka, shared how his mother fell ill, and whilst her treatment was fast and effective, her experience was poor because she felt as though too many doctors and nurses prodded or poked her without communicating what they were doing or looking for. The consultant then insightfully that there is a key difference between experience and treatment, with good treatment not always going hand-in-hand with good care. Additionally, he stressed the importance of trust, sympathy and flexibility, sharing how he personally gave his business cards to patients in order to reassure them that he would be easy to reach should they need it.
Hearing a number of these different experiences highlighted how drastically different one patient’s experiences could be from another, and emphasised that any solution to transform patient care would need to serve one patient as well as the next, taking into account their different needs and preferred means of communication.
Experiences from Patient Representatives
Between presentations, DCC took the opportunity to speak to a number of different delegates, many of whom were patient representatives or people involved in collecting patient experience data. Mirroring the point shared above, many emphasised the essential part that flexibility played in collecting patient experience data. In much the same way that patients will have different communication needs when their care provision is considered, so too will their respective conditions impact upon their ability to share patient experiences. For those seeking to bridge the gap between understanding patient experiences and transforming these into actionable insight that will improve patient experience, collecting relevant data and extracting meaningful information are significant pain factors. This is particularly true for free text data, which offers the greatest insight into patient experience but comes with many processing difficulties.
At DCC, we believe we have the solution for this. Text and sentiment analytics can link and find relationships between words, and then apply a scale of sentiment and emotion to free text comments. The engine allows a visual representation of the actual feelings being felt by patients, linking back to the issue of their experiences and not merely the outcomes of their treatment.
Rather than being an IT or technology company, we aren’t affiliated with any single manufacturer so are able to bring the best of breed in technology for each project we work on, allowing us to guide and advise you with a well-rounded view of the options. As well as being technology innovators, we also spend considerable time researching patient experience and other NHS-related matters allowing us to identify various pain factors henceforth providing effective solutions. Feel free to browse our news/blog section and read our articles on patient experience.
DCC hope you enjoyed our summary of The Kings Fund Patient Experience conference. We are extremely passionate about improving services in the health and public sector having supported awareness campaigns, clinical trials, activity analysis, screening and many more. Read more about what we do and where our passion, ethics and morals are derived from.
If you would like to learn more, give us a call on 0208 903 5432 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will be more than happy to share our experience, views and expertise with you using live examples and visuals of how we helped past projects step by step.
Alternatively, if you have a specific project in mind then a free educational knowledge share workshop may be better suited. The workshop can be held at your premises and it gives us the opportunity to learn more about your project and guide and advise you in the right direction.
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