Navigating the health care system can be a daunting prospect for patients. Reading, understanding and completing forms, making sense of information given by health care professionals, uncertainty about what’s going to happen next, noise at night on the ward, delayed appointments and delayed discharges are just some of the potential sources of patient stress.
Listening to patients’ stories about their health care experiences is well-established as a key to improving service.
However, despite this, there is evidence to suggest that the use of poorly evaluated patient involvement and feedback methods has led to disappointing service quality improvement results.
A completely integrated approach is called for – an approach that collects data from multiple sources, meeting the needs of all patients and stakeholders. This requires flexibility and adaptability in the data capture approach to ensure that no cohort is missed. For example, most hospitals will serve a diverse population who vary by age, race, ethnicity, language, gender and health condition. The approach to feedback capture will need to take account of this; audio and multi-language options may need to be considered, for example, to address literacy and language barriers. Age appropriate surveys, possibly including elements of gamification, may be considered to elicit feedback directly from children (typically, feedback relating to child patient care tends to come from parents and care givers whose priorities and perspectives may be different to the child’s).
Patients with special educational needs are another traditionally difficult to reach group. However, capture methods that incorporate video and audio have proved effective in providing these patients with a voice.
The need for an integrated approach doesn’t just apply to data capture methods.
There also needs to be shared ownership and clear organisational leadership if patient feedback is to be used effectively in improving service quality.
The patient experience strategy needs to be joined-up and owned from Board to Ward. It should be championed at senior level with active promotion of the use of patient feedback data as a means of driving service improvement. Where service issues are identified, the poor patient experience should be seen as an opportunity for improvement and not as a reason to place blame. Staff engagement, support and training programmes should be put in place, successes celebrated and learning shared. A positive, supportive environment is much more likely to lead to a culture of patient-centred care and continuous improvement than one characterised by blame and recrimination.
There are many different ways to capture patient feedback. These include reflective, after-the-event methods like paper postal surveys and real-time feedback that’s captured at the point of experience. Here are some points to consider when designing your approach:
Benefits of real-time data capture. According to Gartner, feedback gathered in real-time is up to 40% more accurate when compared with feedback captured as little as 24 hours after the event to which it relates. Moreover, you can expect to collect 10 – 12% more data when using real-time methods.
Response Bias. You will need to take steps to avoid response bias when using some real-time capture methods. A prime example would be where a nurse conducts a bedside survey using a touchscreen tablet. A patient may feel inhibited about providing a negative response that relates to staff and may therefore not respond truthfully in this scenario. Measures would therefore need to be taken to ensure that the patient is comfortable that his or her response will be anonymous. Fail to meet this basic need and you risk undermining the patient feedback process.
Data Security. The feedback platform that you use should meet the prevailing security standards. For the UK’s National Health Service, this means NHS Information Gateway Toolkit Level 3 compliance and ISO27,001:2013 certification. If a provider fails to meet these standards, there can be little confidence that they will handle sensitive data (including patient identifiable data) appropriately, risking potential data breach, litigation and reputational damage.
Survey Methodology. What is a statistically relevant sample size? Who do you need to reach? How can you be certain that you will be basing future service quality decisions on truly representative data? These are some of the questions that you will need to consider when formulating your survey methodology and approach.
Reaching all Demographics. You will need to employ an approach that enables you to reach all relevant demographics. A one-size fits all approach doesn’t work when it comes to collecting patient feedback. For example, a touchscreen, storybook survey may be the most effective approach in a children’s ward whereas a paper survey may be the most appropriate channel to use when reaching senior citizens.
Analytics and Reporting. Your analytics and reporting capability should be intuitive, powerful and accessible 24/7. It should be flexible enough to fit the needs of your organisation with the facility to align access rights with role requirements. It should provide you with the ability to identify key trends and then drill into the underlying data. For example, within the NHS there should be the ability to view Trust-wide performance and then drill down to look at performance on any given ward. In summary, it should be possible to configure your reporting to meet your specific needs.
Live Alerts & Service Notifications. Your patient Experience platform should have near real-time notification ability, alerting you to service-affecting issues within minutes of them being reported. We term this capability ‘live alerts’. These can typically be configured and routed in accordance with requirements and parameters specified by the user. For example, if a patient provides negative feedback, an alert can be automatically triggered so that the nominated recipient receives immediate notification enabling swift, remedial action to be taken.
Sentiment Analysis. Free-text comments can provide a mine of valuable information and insights; ratings questions are helpful in telling you what patients think but free-text comments help you understand why they think as they do. However, manually trawling through dozens, hundreds or even thousands of free-text responses is time-consuming and inefficient. Sentiment analysis reporting automates this process, freeing up skilled clinical staff and providing efficiency savings. Sentiment analysis makes it quicker and easier to see what respondents are saying in their free-text comments, and is invaluable where huge volumes of responses are involved. Meaning is identified based on the context of the answer and the question rather than simply based on the words used; industry-specific vocabularies and lexicons are employed which means that each report or dashboard benefits from richer, more insightful and timely information.
Data Export. Data export will give you the ability to conduct additional analysis including the production of triangulated and thematic reports across multiple surveys. It should also enable you to produce and print visual, intuitive reports that can be shared with staff.
Technical Considerations. We would recommend you adopt an approach that ensures your Patient Experience platform has no impact on your existing systems, processes or technical support teams. Adoption should be simple and integration with existing working practices seamless.
Your Patient Experience solution should improve speed and accuracy, deliver greater and richer insights and it should give you efficiency savings.
It shouldn’t impose an additional overhead.
Get in touch to discuss more about collecting feedback from your patients.
“ViewPoint gives us excellent Patient Experience evidence and has enabled us to demonstrate that we have robust mechanisms in place to gather and act on the feedback…ViewPoint has developed specific reports that utilise the exact scoring used in the NHS Employers Engagement Toolkit, which has been extremely helpful”.