Enhancing people’s experience of health services is a key goal of improvement initiatives. There are many ways to assess patient expectations, experience and satisfaction.
Patients and their carers are closest to the process of health care and are best placed to provide useful insights and feedback on how the service is working and what could be improved. As patients experience the end-to-end process first hand they have a unique perspective. Seeing services through the eyes of the patient opens up real opportunities for improvement.
The most commonly researched approaches for measuring patient and carer experience include surveys, interviews and patient stories. There is little comparative information about the pros and cons of these approaches, but when selecting an appropriate measurement approach, it may be necessary to weigh up the importance of depth versus generalisability
It is not possible to suggest that a certain approach or a particular tool is most effective for measuring people’s experience, but the evidence base (Health Foundation 2011) suggests ten things that need to be considered when planning how to measure changes in patient and carer experience over time.
The ten things to consider
- Consider how patient experience is being defined to inform exactly what needs to be measured.
- Think about why patient experience is being measured and how the information will be used.
- Assess whether it would be useful to combine approaches so that both qualitative and more quantitative material is collected.
- Consider whether to ask everyone using the services or only a sample to provide feedback.
- Think about whether the best time to collect feedback is immediately after using the services, when experiences are fresh in people’s minds.
- Allocate enough time at the outset to plan and test measurement methods, particularly if these will be used for many years to monitor change over time.
- Think about how the end-result needs to be presented for various audiences as this may shape how data are collected. Potential outputs include statistical averages, in-depth quotes or graphs.
- Make sure that there is appropriate infrastructure at an organisational level to analyse and use patient experience information.
- Make sure that patients, carers, managers and health professionals are all comfortable with why feedback is being collected and how it will be used. Staff need to be on board as well as patients.
- Ensure that patient experience measures are seen as one component of a broader framework of measurement and that all of the approaches work well together, without excessive burden for either staff or patients.