Patient & Staff Experience
Patient and staff involvement and experience are vital elements of all quality improvement work. People who use the system that you are trying to change are experts in that system and their insights and experiences can be priceless when trying to make improvements.
Involving and understanding the experience of patients and staff should be done as early in your improvement journey as possible. While this might feel daunting, it may be that involving and understanding patients and staff early in the project will save you from working on ideas that won’t make the changes you want them to and missing excellent ideas you may not have thought of.
Quality improvement cannot be done by one person alone. While you may be an expert of your system, you are unlikely to have all of the answers to best improve you system, so make sure you get other experts involved. As uncomfortable as it is, it is important to acknowledge that we can assume what patients and staff want and how they want their system improved without consulting them. While you may be concerned about ‘opening the flood gates’, there are good ways to make sure you involve patients in a meaningful way without promising the world.
There are many different ways that you can involve patients and staff and what works best will depend on what you are trying to improve. Fundamentally, patient and staff involvement is asking the question, listening and using what is heard to continue to drive improvement. It is another source of change ideas, a way to study during a PDSA and a motivator to act.
As you implement patient-centred care, remember that quality improvement done right places the person at the centre too.
Here are some ideas to get started with patient and staff involvement. This list is not exhaustive and we welcome tips and suggestions from teams to add to our list.
Have a patient present when creating your planning tool (e.g. process map, fishbone diagram, driver diagram). For projects more focussed on changes impacting staff, make sure that appropriate staff groups are represented when creating these tools.
If you create any patient resources, get feedback from a diverse range of patients on it before making it publicly available. You may want to ask about the language used, whether all of the content is relevant, whether there are other things they would like to know, whether they know what actions (if any) are required of them, whether the design is readable.
Experience based co-design (EBCD) is an approach that allows staff and patients to work together to collaboratively design services and processes. Information can be found here https://www.pointofcarefoundation.org.uk/resource/experience-based-co-design-ebcd-toolkit/
Patient surveys are often a more traditional way of understanding the patient experience. These are traditionally done on paper but can also be done over the phone. A well written patient or staff survey with a strong purpose can be useful and give you ideas for what to improve next. Without a clear aim, surveys can lead to an increase in dissatisfaction as there can be a perception that an opinion was sought but nothing done.
Patient focus groups are a valuable tool when you have already done some initial investigation into the patient experience and want to dive deeper. A skilled facilitator can guide discussion around a topic with careful planning. If interested in this option, contact the team to discuss more about what is involved.