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How to Improve Hospital Patient Experience

5 minute read | 02/04/2024

How to Improve Hospital Patient Experience

The desire to improve patient experience in hospitals isn’t a new concept — NHS Trusts have been investigating various ways to invest in this part of their work. Understanding the key elements of patient experience is critical to moving towards more patient-centred care.

In this blog, we'll look at what has happened so far to transform the patient experience and what still needs work.

  1. The patient experience: A brief history
  2. What's changed?
  3. How to improve patient experience
  4. The future of patient experience

The patient experience: A brief history

A patient's experience during their hospital stay directly impacts their recovery, which isn't new information to those in the healthcare industry.

In 2011, the NHS Confederation released insights and thoughts on improving patient experience. Even then, they knew something had to be done to address the feedback the NHS received from patients, staff and visitors.

The document hinted that the NHS hadn’t done enough to pay attention to fundamental aspects of care. Progress was slow. The number of people who rated their experience as “excellent” did increase, but only very slightly, and there were questions surrounding patient and visitor involvement.

It was felt that the valuable insights of these groups weren’t being taken seriously enough when reshaping services.

The insights considered successful examples from both the UK and further afield, concluding the key themes focused on patient engagement, transformational leadership and an emphasis on collating feedback.

Visit our dedicated page on patient experience to learn more.

What’s changed?

The 2022 adult inpatient survey results from the Care Quality Commission (CQC) showed that most people were positive about their hospital experience. They felt they were being treated with dignity and respect and had confidence and trust in the doctors and nurses who treated them.

However, one area that showed a need for improvement was information provision at discharge and follow-up care, with respondents needing clarification about the purpose of their medicine, how to take it and its associated side effects. 

When speaking to multiple hospital staff members, 24% of respondents said they were ‘sometimes’ told different things and 10% said it ‘always’ happened.

Regarding feedback on services, only 13% of people were asked to give their views on the quality of care and COVID-19 patients were even less likely to have been asked for their views.

One of the key takeaways from these results is that some of the complaints patients have expressed have yet to be addressed — especially regarding feedback.


How to improve patient experience

The NHS’ patient experience framework suggests that Trusts focus on leadership, organisational culture, feedback, analysis and reporting to understand where improvements should be made. But what does that look like?


1. Leadership

Effective leadership is critical for any improvements to patient experience. The person responsible for these improvements must:

  • Engage colleagues so they fully understand what a good patient experience looks like and how to identify and implement improvements
  • Be willing to change, as this type of transition requires fully engaged leaders who’ll act as role models to support the change


2. Organisational culture

An organisational culture of accountability, prioritising understanding, and improving patients' experience is a must-have. Everyone in the organisation must share the beliefs and values that encourage improvements, with a clear vision for patient experience.


3. Feedback

Look at any of the relevant material from Trusts and you’ll see they have plans to improve engagement through feedback. Yet there needs to be a continual emphasis on this for patients, families and carers, including providing staff with the means of capturing feedback in real-time.

Improvement plans have to demonstrate how to gather this feedback, including:

  • Surveys and questionnaires, whether by post, handheld devices or email, in clinics, waiting rooms and patient homes
  • Patient participation groups, panels or service user groups
  • Focus groups and one-to-one interviews 
  • Patient stories 

The feedback gathered then needs to be turned into action plans that are carried out and evaluated.


4. Analysis and reporting

Resources like budget, staff and systems must analyse this feedback and implement improvements to the patient experience due to this measurement and data capture. Organisations must know the costs associated with these improvements and measure the effects of this investment.


5. New innovations

Implementing change in healthcare has always been difficult because of financial constraints and red tape. For the best chance of success, innovation must improve patient experience, be financially viable and target a common complaint that patients, visitors and staff have. 

Introducing innovative systems would target this group’s complaints. They’re accustomed to public WiFi, content streaming and smart devices. With a more advanced platform like SPARK® Media, patients can browse the internet, learn about their healthcare journey, and watch the latest television shows at the touch of a button. 

Significantly, these systems can be used to collate the valuable feedback that’s needed to improve the patient experience. Surveys completed online using SPARK® Media give Trusts the information and analytics they need to shape services more effectively for the future. 

Patient experience is as much of an issue now as in 2011 and even before. Trusts are in the almost impossible position of finding improvements that follow the above framework while managing a budget stretched incredibly thin. 

What’s important is that the NHS, CQC and Trusts are having a vital conversation about patient experience to know how to make these critical improvements.


The future of patient experience

Providing a great patient experience is the most effective way to rebuild trust and create a better healthcare system. Find out what exceptional patient experience looks like and the factors that need improving for the future with our Patient Experience Guide.

Access your copy below.

Patient Experience

75% of patients want digital healthcare services

So let’s work together to give it to them, all while optimising NHS processes.

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