"People-izing the Numbers": Forums to Put a Face to Patient Experience

May 2, 2017 Samantha Relich

When Kingston General Hospital redesigned its day surgery space, the hospital considered Angela Morin's perspective.  

The team behind the redesign didn’t incorporate her feedback because she's a Patient Experience Advisor or co-chair of the Patient and Family Advisory Council. Instead, they responded to her personal experience with privacy in the space as a day surgery patient.  

Morin's experiences were collected through a patient- and family-led feedback forum – an innovative initiative at KGH that brings together patients, families and the front-line staff involved in their care in facilitated sessions. The purpose? To share and reflect on patient and family experiences at the hospital, face-to-face.  

"We wanted to find a better way that we could share the patient experience directly with staff that wasn't just numbers and percentages, but actually put a human face to the interaction," says Daryl Bell, lead for patient- and family-centered care at KGH.  

The forums are an unusual and inventive approach. And although bringing patients back to the hospital to meet with their front-line care staff takes a lot of organizing, Bell says the insights from patients and families and the learning opportunities for staff make it absolutely worth it.  

"When staff hear [feedback] coming from a patient and hear the emotion behind it, it makes a whole different impact and the educational value, I think, is much higher when it actually has that human connection," says Bell.    

How it works 

All nine care programs at KGH are responsible for holding two forums annually. At each, a patient or family is selected and invited back to the hospital to share their experiences. During these sessions, the patient has the floor – staff are there to listen and learn.   

"Staff are responsible for identifying one or two things that are going well that need to be supported or things that are not going so well that need to be remedied," says Bell.  

Then, KGH closes the feedback loop.  

“If they can be quickly fixed, that’s done,” says Bell. “If they can’t be quickly fixed, then a [Plan, Do, Study, Act (PDSA)] cycle is begun to address whatever the issue is.”    

Some issues, like Morin’s concerns about privacy in the day surgery space, take time to address. Others, like making staff name tags easily visible or improving the information on discharge materials, are easier to remedy. Regardless, patients and family that participate in the forums are updated on what the action items are and what the hospital is doing to address them.   

Value added: Creating a human connection 

At first, Bell says staff were hesitant about the forums, thinking they would be complaint sessions. However, they quickly realized the forums are, above all else, a constructive environment. In fact, they're often an opportunity to share positive experiences, which can show staff how their efforts to take a patient and family centered care approach are having a huge impact.    

The forums allow for deep information-sharing that complements insights from traditional feedback channels, like surveys. “A lot of patients, they wouldn’t necessarily go to patient relations and make a complaint about something small, but it’s very often the small things that make a really big difference to a patient’s experience,” says Morin.     

Forums also create structured space for in-person interaction, which counterbalances current trends that have physicians spending more time with screens than with patients. They are also a reminder that electronic measures to report patient experiences complement face-to-face interaction, they don't replace it.     

“It’s that relationship piece that can’t happen by looking at statistics that are six months old – that doesn’t touch your heart,” says Bell. “We had a CEO call it ‘people-izing the numbers’.”   

Part of KGH’s success comes from making attendance mandatory and distributing notes to those who can’t attend because of patient-care conflicts. The goal is to share the learnings across the hospital, and then follow up to make sure changes are being implemented.     

While the changes that stem from each forum vary, the intention driving all of them is the same, says Bell: “The process is to ensure that the next patient coming in has a better experience.”    
 
PRO-TIPS: What is your top piece of advice for organizations thinking about implementing patient and family led feedback forums?     

Daryl Bell: “Take a look at the process, make sure it’s going to work for you, and then follow it.”

Angela Morin: “Don’t be afraid to hear from your patients and families.”   

Interested in other success stories? Read about how the patient experience team at UCLA Health is bringing quality of care to the forefront. 

About the Author

Samantha is part of the marketing team at RL and is passionate about sharing healthcare stories. When she's not typing away, you can find her as far from the city as possible with a book and a kayak.

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