Why do we seek feedback from patients and their carers?

Update from Patient Opinion Australia

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The latter part of last century and more so this century saw the rise of the importance of patient experience. Numerous studies have been published investigating the link between patient experience and health outcomes. It is one of the quadrants of the quadruple aim of healthcare, with the others being staff experience, health outcomes and costs. In Australia, among other countries, national safety and quality standards include references to the importance of engaging or partnering with consumers to improve patient experience.  In addition to the policy, there is now a multitude of ways to measure this concept, and 'real-time feedback' is the buzz phrase these days.

So for all the above reasons, there is a lot of activity undertaken by health and aged care services in gathering patient and consumer feedback. However, I believe we need to delve deeper into the question of ‘why’ in order to advance the concept of patient experience to the centre of our healthcare endeavours.

Why do we gather patient and consumer feedback? Is it just to ‘tick boxes’ because of regulation policies, or is it more about trying to improve our services? I would suggest a mixture of both for most organisations.

Such purpose is fine, but what is missing is an opportunity. Recently, I was speaking with a large metropolitan health service who commented that they already had good mechanisms in place to seek patient feedback, so why introduce another one like Patient Opinion? My response was to ask them the following question; 'What return does the patient see for providing their feedback? I was told that they would eventually see improvement in the organisation. I pressed a little harder, asking what would the patient sees immediately from taking the time to provide feedback? The response was something like this – ‘Well nothing immediately, we just need their feedback so that we can produce reports’.

And that I think is the point of difference with Patient Opinion. We see feedback as an opportunity for health services (and aged care) to engage in a dialogue with the storyteller. But it’s also an opportunity for the storyteller to see and feel that they’ve been heard and that someone is listening and responding to their concerns. Patients can also see when and how changes are being made where necessary, as well as seeing that others have read their story to further enhance the feeling of ‘being heard’.

Fundamentally, the difference between traditional methods of patient feedback and Patient Opinion’s online forum is that traditional feedback services tend to treat the patient as a ‘data point’ rather than using the feedback to establish dialogue and build trust. By giving us the 'gift of their story', patients are able to see that their gift is nurtured with care, and returned to them 10-fold.

While data points are important for measurement , and help services produce reports, feedback should seek a higher importance by fostering a relationship that benefits both the giver and receiver of the feedback.


Response from Smartcook on

I ‘tell my story” once a month at the Royal Adelaide Hospital on Orientation Day for new clinicians. I’ve been told that some people have said it’s the most important part of the day. 

Response from Michael Greco, CEO, Patient Opinion Australia on

Thanks Smartcook - what a wonderful gift you are providing new clinicians by telling them your story. And pleased to hear that the clinicians find it a valuable exercise. Thank you for sharing this.

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