The feedback avalanche. An article by the Patient Experience Library

What does good patient experience look like?

That question is easily answered by staff who work face to face with patients. Smiles, thank you cards and boxes of chocolates are visible signs that a patient’s experience has been good. But at the organisational level, it can be much harder to understand how patients are experiencing service quality.

We tackled this topic for an editorial in the latest issue of the Journal of Clinical Nursing. With colleagues from the universities of Exeter and Brighton, we tracked some of the policy drivers for patient experience work, and looked at how healthcare organisations have tried to turn policies into practice.

It is clear that serious efforts are being made to hear the patient voice. But we take the view that in seeking to meet the call that ‘something must be done’ the system has created an avalanche of patient feedback. The result is information overload, with patient experience staff sometimes struggling to keep up with the flow of data.

In fact, oversupply of information need not be a problem. Clinicians have management information systems that help them make sense of complex data. They have clinical databases that make research accessible and searchable, and they can look up clinical guidelines that help them remember key practice points.

The material on patient experience, however, has not been so well organised.

We think that the NHS needs to systematise its efforts, focusing on how things work from the patient’s viewpoint, rather than validating existing practice through a ticking of boxes.

A rethink is needed on how we tap into patient experience. A rethink that takes account of these challenges and acknowledges the possibility of unpalatable answers which may disturb, or at least question, the current balance of power between organisations, professionals and patients.

This is not a shot in the dark. There are encouraging omens. And we all have a part to play in this agenda.

The full article can be downloaded via the Patient Experience Library website.

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