13th June 2024. 

Why patient feedback matters more than ever 

The NHS has been grappling with extensive waiting lists for many years, a situation that the pandemic has exacerbated. As organisations struggle to tackle waiting lists whilst managing new cases, patients are often left in limbo waiting for treatment. In these circumstances, patient feedback becomes not just beneficial, but crucial. It is a powerful tool that can drive systemic change, enhance patient safety, and significantly improve the overall healthcare experience. 

Patient safety: A paramount concern 

The events over last few years have placed unprecedented strain on medical staff across the globe. This has led to the delay of elective surgeries, routine procedures and screenings, resulting in prolonged patient suffering, deteriorating health conditions, and in some cases, irreversible damage. Delays in treatment can also lead to complications and the worsening of conditions, for example, a patient awaiting heart surgery might experience a life-threatening event due to the delay. 

Patients can provide important insights into the risks and adverse outcomes they are experiencing. Through digital-first waiting list validation projects, care teams can check in with patients and analyse the data to ensure they identify critical safety issues and implement targeted interventions to mitigate risks. For instance, prioritising patients based on the severity of their conditions rather than a first-come-first-served basis can ensure that those in dire need receive timely care. 

Driving improvement and change  

Feedback from patients serves as a catalyst for change within the NHS, highlighting systemic issues that might not be visible from within. Patients can provide first-hand accounts of inefficiencies in appointment scheduling, communication breakdowns, and other administrative hurdles that contribute to longer waiting times. 

On the flip side, gathering feedback on changes that have already been actioned can alert teams to any concerns. One Mental Health Trust reorganised the layout of their waiting room with a view to improve their service users experience. However, when seeking feedback, they instead received comments that the change had caused additional anxiety when visiting an already stressful environment for them. This highlights the value of listening, as the team managed to avoid a situation that could potentially have worsened outcomes for their service users, simply by asking their thoughts.  

Trusts that actively seek and act on feedback often see significant improvements in their operations. This information can be gathered through various channels such as online or paper surveys, via a QR code, responding to automated Voice recordings, and even conversational, humanlike messaging. When patients feel heard and see their suggestions being implemented through ‘You Said, We Did’ it encourages more feedback, which is essential for the smooth functioning of services. 

Empowering patients and building trust 

It is so important to empower individuals by giving them a voice in their care process, fostering trust between patients and their care teams. When patients know that their opinions are valued and can lead to tangible improvements, they are more likely to engage actively in their care, follow advice, and maintain continuity in their healthcare relationships. Trust is particularly important during times of crisis, such as the current waiting list situation. Regular updates and a clear, honest dialogue help maintain this connection and ensure that patients remain engaged and informed. 

Through feedback, patients can also express their frustrations and suggest improvements that can make their wait more bearable. Simple measures such as better communication about expected wait times, updates on the status of their appointments, and access to support services can significantly enhance the patient experience. For example, providing mental health support for patients dealing with anxiety due to prolonged waits can make a substantial difference. 

Implementing inclusive systems 

To truly amplify the voice of patients, organisations must have an effective process. This involves creating multiple channels through which patients can respond, ensuring these channels are accessible to all patients, and actively promoting their use. Additionally, training staff to handle feedback sensitively and respond constructively is essential to getting the most value out of it. Personalised surveys allow organisations to capture even more valuable insights by tailoring them to the patient and care received, or their additional needs. These digital platforms then facilitate real-time analysis for quick responses and faster transformation.  

At Healthcare Communications, our intelligent Patient Experience platform is specifically designed to capture feedback at key moments along the patient journey, so users can instantly review responses and key themes on a secure, user friendly dashboard with real time alerts to flag critical issues in the moment. 

Gathering feedback matters more than ever 

The escalating backlog is a complex issue that requires multifaceted solutions, and we believe that amplifying the voice of patients through a comprehensive collection process is a critical step. In these times of unprecedented strain on the NHS, it is not just a tool for improvement; it is a lifeline that can guide the NHS through the crisis, ensuring that patient care remains at the forefront of its efforts.