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Navigating the feedback maze

It is no secret that NHS staff can feel swamped by the volume of patient feedback coming from Friends and Family Test, national surveys, local surveys, complaints, social media and more.  

There is broad consensus on the value of seeking patients' views.  But there is less agreement about how to learn from, and act on, the mass of data gained from widespread evidence-gathering.  

According to this paper, "quantitative surveys [are] the most frequently collected type of patient experience data (often mandated) but the least acceptable to healthcare teams with respect to use within quality improvement".  On the other hand, there is "an apparent sense of nervousness amongst hospital teams surrounding the use of qualitative data as it is regarded as time‐consuming to collect and difficult to interpret without bias".

To try to make sense of all this, the researchers looked for a way to define types of patient feedback, and to develop categories that could help clarify potential uses for the different types.

A scoping review returned no fewer than 37 feedback types. These were sorted into  12 characteristics and then into 4 categories, as follows:
  • Hospital‐initiated quantitative surveys: eg the NHS Adult Inpatient Survey
  • Patient‐initiated qualitative feedback: eg complaints or twitter comments
  • Hospital‐initiated qualitative feedback: eg Experience Based Co-Design
  • Other: eg Friends & Family Test. 
These categories might help us to make sense of the wide range of patient feedback types in use across the NHS.  But do they help us to make sense of the feedback itself?  Unfortunately, the paper finds that few of the routinely collected feedback types elicit “ready‐to‐use” data.  And where useable data is easy to extract, it is "most suitable for measuring accountability, not for informing ward‐based improvement".

The authors conclude that "If feedback is to be used more frequently within quality improvement, more attention must be paid to obtaining and making available the most appropriate types".

You can download the report via our website.
Making sense of patient feedback

Many research studies have looked at how - and whether - healthcare staff are able to make sense of what patients are telling them.  

This study found that in surveys, some patients offer perfect ratings (eg five stars) only to follow up with negative comments.  The paper digs into the reasons, and explains why. 

This helpful infographic shows how providers respond to online feedback from patients - all the way from "non-response" to "transparent conversations".  Among the in-betweens are "appreciative responses" which look good but could undermine their own effectiveness by being padded out with cut and paste phrases.

This bite-size guide recognises that sometimes patients give feedback in distressing or very emotional situations.  It looks at the challenges and suggests how to respond.

For more on how to make sense of patient feedback, search "using feedback" here:  
This just in…
Free resources

Not a subscriber to the Patient Experience Library?  Don't worry - you can still get lots of free stuff from our website!  

Our quarterly Patient Experience magazine carries insightful comment from a range of contributors, as well as our top picks of recent reports on patient experience and patient/public involvement. 

Patient Experience in England is our annual overview of the evidence base, drawing on surveys and research from government bodies, health charities and academic institutions.  The evidence is broken down into manageable chunks, and research findings are grouped under key themes for ease of understanding. 

You can browse our Knowledge Maps to see how patient experience is being reported in your area.  

And if you want to wear your patient experience heart on your sleeve, you can download and print our posters and stick them on your wall.  Better still, post them to the Chief Executive of your local NHS Trust!
Do you know of a stand-out report on patient experience that people in CCG's, PALS teams and local Healthwatch should be reading?  If you do, and you'd like to see it featured in this newsletter, let us know! 
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  • Quality Accounts from health service providers
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