The desire to improve patient experience in hospitals isn’t a new concept. NHS Trusts have been investigating various ways to invest in this part of their work. Understanding the key elements of patient experience is critical to moving towards more patient-centred care.
So, how far have we come? What’s changed and what still needs to happen?
Patient Experience: An Ongoing Issue
In 2011, the NHS Confederation released its insights and thoughts on the challenge of improving patient experience. Even then, they knew something had to be done to address the feedback the NHS received from patients, staff and visitors.
The document hinted that the NHS previously hadn’t done enough to pay attention to some fundamental aspects of care. Progress was slow. The number of people who rated their experience as “excellent” did increase, but only very slightly and there were questions surrounding patient and visitor involvement.
It was felt that the valuable insights of these groups weren’t being taken seriously enough when reshaping services.
The insights considered successful examples from both the UK and further afield, concluding the key themes running throughout focused on patient engagement, transformational leadership and emphasis on collating feedback.
The most recent adult inpatient survey results from the Care Quality Commission (CQC) showed that most people were positive about their overall hospital experience. They felt they were being treated with dignity and respect and had confidence and trust in the doctors and nurses who treated them.
However, one area that showed a need for improvement was information provision at discharge and follow-up care, with respondents not always clear about the purpose of their medicine, how to take it and its associated side effects. When speaking to multiple hospital staff members, 24% of respondents said they were ‘sometimes’ told different things and 10% said it ‘always’ happened.
Regarding feedback on services, only 13% of people were asked to give their views on the quality of care and COVID-19 patients were even less likely to have been asked for their views.
One of the key takeaways from these results is that some of the complaints patients have expressed over the years have yet to truly be addressed — especially regarding feedback.
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How to Improve Hospital Patient Experience
The NHS’ patient experience framework suggests that Trusts focus on leadership, organisational culture, feedback, analysis and reporting to understand where improvements should be made. But what does that look like?
Effective leadership is critical for any improvements to patient experience. The person responsible for these improvements must:
- Engage colleagues so they fully understand what good patient experience looks like and how to identify and implement improvements
- Be willing to change. This type of transition requires fully engaged leaders who’ll act as role models to support the change
2. Organisational Culture
Having an organisational culture of accountability prioritising understanding and improving patients' experience is a must-have. Everyone in the organisation must share the beliefs and values that encourage improvements, with a clear vision for patient experience.
Look at any of the relevant material from Trusts and you’ll see they have plans to improve engagement through feedback. Yet there needs to be a continual emphasis on this for patients, families and carers, including providing staff with the means of capturing feedback in real-time.
Improvement plans have to demonstrate how to gather this feedback, including:
- Surveys and questionnaires, whether by post, handheld devices or email, in clinics, waiting rooms and patient homes
- Patient participation groups, panels or service user groups
- Focus groups and one-to-one interviews
- Patient stories
The feedback gathered then needs to be turned into action plans that are carried out and evaluated.
4. Analysis and Reporting
Resources, like budget, staff and systems have to be dedicated to analysing this feedback and implementing improvements to the patient experience due to this measurement and data capture. Organisations must know the costs associated with these improvements and can measure the effects of this investment afterward.
5. New Innovations
It has always been difficult to implement change in healthcare because of financial constraints and red tape. For the best chance of success, innovation needs to improve patient experience, be financially viable and target a common complaint that patients, visitors and staff have.
Introducing innovative systems would target this group’s complaints. They’re accustomed to public WiFi, content streaming and smart devices. With a more advanced platform like SPARK® Media, patients can browse the internet, watch the latest television shows and even order their meals at the touch of a button.
Significantly, these systems can be used to collate the valuable feedback that’s needed to improve the patient experience. Surveys completed online using SPARK® Media give Trusts the information and analytics they need to shape services more effectively for the future.
Patient experience is as much of an issue now as it was in 2011 and even before then. Trusts are in the almost impossible position of finding improvements that follow the above framework while managing a budget that’s stretched incredibly thin.
Many of the issues that patients experienced in 2011 are still commonplace today. What’s important is that the NHS, CQC and Trusts are having a vital conversation about patient experience to know how to make these critical improvements.
The Future of Patient Experience
Providing a great patient experience is the most effective way to rebuild trust and create a better healthcare system. Find out what exceptional patient experience looks like and the factors that need improving for the future with our Patient Experience Guide.
Access your copy below.