Patient Feedback: How It Can Improve Healthcare Experiences

Philip Cleave
December 4, 2023
Picture showing what helps to make a good patient experience

Healthcare is an essential element to all our lives, and the quality of our healthcare experiences can significantly impact our well-being and life-chances.

Consequently, anything we can do to shape and improve this will make a huge difference to improving our patient experience, which is where patient feedback comes in and is what we’ll be looking at next.

What is patient feedback?

Patient feedback can be defined as the insight, opinion and shared experiences of patients, which provides their perspective on the standard of the healthcare services and care they’ve received. It can be collected in various forms including patient surveys, comments or verbal communications.

The primary aim of patient feedback is to help healthcare providers identify areas for improvement, so they can enhance the quality of patient care and the experiences they deliver.

Why patient feedback is important

There are several compelling reasons why patient feedback is so important in healthcare. These include the pivotal role it plays in enhancing the quality of care, patient satisfaction and the overall efficiency of healthcare systems.

Here are some more key reasons that highlight the value of patient feedback.

Improving the quality of care

It provides valuable insights into the quality of healthcare services. It helps healthcare providers identify areas where improvements are required, whether that’s related to clinical care, communications, or any other aspects of the patient experience.

Patient centered care

It highlights the importance of patient centered care, in terms of the need to always consider the patient’s preferences, needs and values. This approach leads to more personalized and effective care plans.

Ongoing improvement

By frequently collecting patient feedback, it puts healthcare organizations in a better position to make continuous improvements. Healthcare provides can then refine their practices to address issues and concerns and enhance the overall patient experience.

Pinpoint any gaps in services

Patient feedback can help identify gaps in services or care that healthcare providers should be aware of. This is particularly important for pinpointing areas where additional resources and support are needed, so it can be added to the patient journey map.

Accountability and transparency

It’s also valuable in holding healthcare organizations to account for the quality of their care. Thanks to transparency in the feedback process, it can help build greater trust and encourage healthcare providers to maintain high standards.

Helps to reduce medical errors

The good thing about patient feedback is that it can also help identify any errors or oversights in care which might otherwise go unnoticed. The timelier that feedback, the better able healthcare organizations will be in preventing medical errors and improving patient safety.

Patient satisfaction

The happier and more contented a patient is, the more likely they’ll be to comply with their treatment plan, follow up on their care and experience better medical outcomes. So, by understanding what really matters to patients and making improvements based on their feedback, it can help achieve higher levels of patient satisfaction.

Regulatory compliance

It can also help keep healthcare organizations compliant, as many regulatory bodies require them to collect and respond to patient feedback, as part of their quality improvement requirements.

Research and development

Patient feedback can help inspire greater research and innovation in healthcare. This is because it helps highlight areas where new treatments, technologies or care are required to meet patient needs.

Patient empowerment

By giving them a greater voice in the provision of their care, feedback helps patients feel more heard, valued and empowered. This is turn can lead to more positive healthcare experiences.

Collecting patient feedback

Given the many benefits that patient feedback offers for evaluating levels of care and identifying areas for improvement, the ability to regularly collect patient feedback is paramount.

Here’s some effective methods to achieve that.

Surveys and questionnaires

The use of surveys and questionnaires allows healthcare providers to collect structured feedback from patients.

These tools can be administered either digitally, via the phone or in person, helping to identify quantifiable data and trends.

Focus groups

Alternatively, the use of focus groups enables healthcare professionals to gain a more in-depth insight into the experiences of patients. By collecting qualitative rather than quantitative feedback, this approach can help uncover more specific issues that need to be addressed.

Comment cards and suggestion boxes

More candid responses can be gathered when the thoughts of patients are still relatively fresh in their minds.

This can be encouraged through placing comment cards or suggestion boxes in waiting areas, which allow patients to provide feedback anonymously.

Online reviews and social media

Many patients like to share their experiences of the healthcare they’ve received on review websites or social media platforms.

Subsequently, monitoring and responding to these reviews can help healthcare providers to address some of these concerns and showcase their commitment to improving care.

Direct communications

Getting patients to open up about how they’re feeling during patient visits can be another effective way to gather their feedback.

This method also allows providers to ask about their experiences, address concerns and make some improvements on the spot.

How to get constructive patient feedback

If you’re to get the most out of their feedback, you’ll want your patients to provide more constructive feedback that is both helpful and actionable. This is crucial, as the more constructive their feedback the more you’ll be able to do in terms of improving and enhancing patient care.

Here’s how patients can offer their feedback more effectively.

Be more specific

Feedback is always more useful when there’s some context behind it, to make it more specific.

So, rather than saying: “The service was poor”, patients can make their feedback more helpful by saying exactly what was unsatisfactory about it.

For example, statements such as the following: “The doctor didn’t explain my treatment thoroughly enough” and “I found your waiting times too long” are more useful.

Offer feedback honestly and respectively

While it’s good for them to be honest about their experiences, patients must also try to do this as respectfully as they can.

So, rather than using offensive language or making personal attacks on healthcare professionals, a respectful tone is more likely to be considered and heard.

Provide suggestions

Instead of only pointing out problems, feedback from patients offering constructive suggestions for improvement is far more valuable.

So, it’s worth encouraging patients to come forward with any solutions or ideas that they think may make a situation better.

Document their experiences

Again, it can be helpful to encourage patients to record their healthcare experiences, referencing the data, time, names of the healthcare providers and an outline of what happened. This can be more helpful to you if you’re to effectively address their concerns.

Offer prompt feedback

It’s always more helpful if patients are able to provide feedback while their experiences are fresh in their minds. Doing this is more likely to result in the prompt resolution of any issues.

Use the best channel for them

From completing patient satisfaction surveys and feedback forms to talking directly with their healthcare provider. You need to consider what’s the most effective channel for you to collect the most honest and valuable patient feedback.

Positive comment is as valuable as negative feedback

When it comes to patient feedback, comments about what they’re happy with are just as valuable as negative feedback. This is because acknowledging quality care and service is more motivational for healthcare providers when it comes to maintaining or improving their standards.

Collaboration can increase the spotlight on the importance of an issue

When patients have a concern, it can help them to share it with others who may have similar concerns.

By encouraging patients to share their worries in this way, it makes it easier to identify those issues of greatest concern to all your patients.

Swiftly respond to feedback and show you’re listening

Whether you’ve received negative or positive feedback, a key part of collecting any patient feedback is to politely acknowledge your patients’ time and effort to respond.

At the more generic level, your response should include an automated reply that thanks patients for their comments. But at the larger scale, it’s about showing patients that you’ve acted on their feedback, and you’ve improved the patient experience as a result.

While responding to solicited feedback is crucial, you’ll also need a plan for resolving unsolicited comment, as this type of feedback can significantly impact a patient’s decision to use your healthcare services, particularly if they’re private.

The most effective way to deal with positive and negative feedback, which is both solicited and unsolicited, is to:

Respond swiftly

Irrespective of whether your review is positive or negative, time is of the essence. By responding quickly, you’ll ensure every patient feels valued.

Say thanks or apologize

Whether your feedback is positive or negative, thank every patient for taking the time to respond, as even bad comments are useful for helping you improve.

Offer to resolve their issue

When you receive negative feedback, it’s vital to offer to resolve the issue they’ve flagged. More than anything this demonstrates that you’ve listened and are capable of making more changes to improve patient care.

If necessary, move the conversation to a private channel

Too much negative commentary is not healthy to see on a public channel. Therefore, where appropriate, look to switch your conversation to an offline or private channel.

Concluding thoughts

We hope you enjoyed reading this blog. Whatever stage you’re at in terms of collecting patient feedback, it’s important to know how useful it can be in helping to shape the quality of healthcare experiences, as well as driving ongoing improvement in healthcare standards.

Remember both positive and negative feedback are equally valuable to making the changes you need. So, as long as you’re using the correct methods, have the right systems in place and are regularly collecting this feedback, you should be well on your way to delivering better healthcare experiences and patient outcomes.

Delight patients with better experiences

While your feedback activities need to be ongoing and positively acted on if you’re to deliver better patient experiences, the best results can only be achieved if you’re using the right survey tools.

Find out more

Get started and create your first survey

If you would like more information then please get in touch.