With a focus on measurement and insights, this article shares my recent patient experience case study.
Many people associate a hospital stay with a negative experience. That’s understandable. Most people are in hospital for treatment or consultation in relation to an illness or injury. Hospitals come somewhere at the bottom of the list of fun things to do on a weekend; just above the dentist. Maybe.
But that doesn’t necessarily mean a patient experience is negative. Many people, myself included, have wonderful things to say about time spent in hospital in relation to staff, facilities and treatment.
Collecting patient insights throughout their experience can lead to continuous hospital improvement and performance.
My patient experience case study
About two months ago, I underwent a tonsillectomy after years of suffering from chronic tonsillitis. My hospital experience was less than desirable thanks to post-surgery complications, but the care I received while in hospital was excellent. The hospital staff were friendly, accommodating and provided a high quality of care. I thanked the staff verbally, but it would have been nice to share my gratitude with their supervisors and hospital management.
I recently received a postal survey about my patient experience, which I filled out and posted back. Walking to the post box, completed questionnaire in hand, felt a bit… 20th century. It made me think about the many other opportunities during my patient experience when I could have provided feedback and insight.
Real-time data can be collected at touch points along the patient journey that, when compared from patient to patient, can determine when and where common issues are arising. It is also an account of the experience as it is happening – not a memory, coloured by time and other intervening experiences. Hospitals could then use this data to review processes and modify them to maximise the health and wellbeing of patients.
Following my first consultation
After my request for a tonsillectomy was approved, I was advised to expect a 12-month wait for surgery (as a public patient). I prepared mentally for this wait time however, I ended up receiving a surgery date less than five months after my initial surgeon appointment. I had tonsillitis at least six times between July last year and March this year, so naturally I was thrilled when I received the phone call. This would have been an opportune time to share my appreciation for the shortened wait period. The caller could have asked me to complete a survey over the phone, or directed me to an online survey.
My admission time was about 11am. I was advised beforehand that this would not be my surgery time. I was told it was a very busy surgery day, with all theatres in operation. My procedure commenced about 3.30pm that day, and because I couldn’t eat or drink before the surgery, this wait felt long. The nurses were very accommodating, setting me up in a room in preparation for the surgery, ensuring I felt comfortable and relaxed. But I was bored and hangry (anger brought on by hunger) as I hadn’t eaten since 8pm the night before. If there was a sign in the room, or even at the end of the bed frame, with a web address to fill out a survey, it would have eased my boredom and given me something productive to do. This could take the form of a gamified survey, to make the process more enjoyable, or a digital form so I could request jelly as a post-surgery snack.
When selecting hospital meals
Anyone who has ever been in hospital has encountered the food form – the slip of paper to select your meals during your stay. Will I have the ice-cream or jelly – maybe both? Perhaps during this food questionnaire, patients could also be asked about their experience. What do they think of the food selection? Does it meet their dietary and cultural needs? They already have a pencil in their hand and a piece of paper in-front of them, so why not have the option to fill out a few additional questions at the same time? Questions could also be asked about care or treatment, feelings about the hospital stay, interactions with hospital staff, facility conditions and improvements.
Ellis Jones works across the health spectrum, advising companies and leaders in the primary health (including pharmacy), specialist, hospital, allied health, and residential and in-home care industries. Find out more about our patient experience approach and four key focus areas.
While waiting to be discharged
Again, anyone who has stayed in a hospital overnight would know you have to wait for the doctors’ morning rounds before a decision can be made about when you can be discharged. The doctor assessed me at about 8am the morning after surgery and informed me of potential post-surgery complications, as well as how to respond should complications arise. I then waited until 11am to be discharged – I was waiting for medication prescriptions to be filled and a post-surgery information pack. This three-hour window could have been filled with a verbal or written questionnaire on varying aspects of my hospital stay. If someone came around with a tablet, with a list of patients being discharged, they could have captured the input digitally or I could have filled it out myself.
My recovery was progressing nicely for about a week until I encountered a post-tonsillectomy haemorrhage. It’s not completely uncommon but requires a visit to the hospital’s accident and emergency department. Due to potential further complications a bleed can incur, a secondary hospital stay was required. This involved two days of hospital bed rest and thumbing through magazines. With boredom and hunger heightened as my companions once again, this would have been an ideal time to provide feedback on the hospital experience, specifically about the readmission process.
If you go to a cafe and the staff are friendly and accommodating, the food is delicious and the atmosphere is lively, but the coffee tastes burnt, it can alter your perception of the entire establishment.
Back to that postal survey about my hospital experience. I appreciated this opportunity to provide feedback however, it was difficult trying to recall my experience in detail and I had to rely on my feelings towards the overall experience, as opposed to how I felt in the moment as events were unfolding. Due to the post-surgery complications and resulting distress I endured, I look back and view the whole experience as negative. But this feeling is not indicative of the quality of care I received and the tireless work of all staff involved, which is why collecting real-time data would be of better value than a post-experience survey.
It is worth noting that not all patients will be motivated to fill out that post-op questionnaire or any other survey as they recover. But for me, I had an abundance of time and boredom to contend with, so I would have been more than happy to complete surveys during this time. Hospitals could utilise real-time data to understand patients’ needs and experience, but also reduce boredom, angst and (therefore) complaints. Patient centred care is an expectation. Responding to patient feedback and implementing solutions in real-time can optimise the patient experience and lead to post-op advocacy.