Why Patient Voice is Key to Improving Patient Engagement
In recent years, the wider healthcare community has become increasingly interested in the concept of patient voice. But what is it exactly? And why is it such an important part of patient engagement?
What is Patient Voice?
Patient voice can be a difficult thing to define. Of course, it does literally mean giving patients more input into their care — but what does that actually look like? If it was just a case of listening to
Patient voice can mean several different things, all of which come together under the broader rubric of patient engagement, including:
Involving Patients in Decision Making
This might raise a few eyebrows — obviously advocating a ‘patient knows best’ approach would have interesting results, to say the least — but it’s grounded in solid theory and research. Giving patients greater say in their treatment aims to transform healthcare from something that happens to patients to a process that happens with their input and understanding.
These aren’t just noble aims in themselves, they also have the potential to tangibly affect patient health outcomes. Countless papers, studies and reviews have come to the conclusion that involving patients in the decision-making process can lead to patients:
- Better recalling necessary information and knowledge
- Reporting that the chosen treatment was right for them
- Being more likely to adhere to their chosen treatment plan
- Participating in monitoring and preventative medicine activities
Public Involvement in Research
There has being a growing consensus within the NHS — through projects like INVOLVE — that research should be something that is carried out with or by members of the public, rather than for or about them.
The use of the term ‘public’ is based upon the idea that we’re all current, former or future patients. It includes almost everyone you could think of who has a stake in healthcare, including patients, potential patients, carers and people who use health services as well as people from organisations representing care users.
In practice, the ‘involvement’ part can be anything from patients offering their thoughts as members of a project steering group to patients helping to develop research materials to simply undertaking interviews with research participants. The important thing is that the ultimate recipients of care are part of the steering, guidance and collection of the research.
Involving patients at this level not only ensures the research is more likely to be relevant to them, it also helps to push research in new and interesting directions — benefitting healthcare in the long-run.
A relatively simple point, but an important one. Perhaps the most vital facet of patient voice is simply giving end-users a way to give their opinion on the aspects of care that went well and those that didn’t. We’ve covered the importance of patient satisfaction elsewhere, but it bears repeating that if you don’t provide a forum for patients to air praise or genuine grievances, how are you going to assess your performance in anything other than clinical outcomes?
Measuring patient satisfaction could take the form of
First-person Patient Stories
Lastly, the most evocative example of using patient voice is allowing patients to tell their own stories. So much of how we learn as a species is through the passing on of stories and there is plenty to be learned from listening to and attempting to understand stakeholders’ experiences of their care.
Programmes like Patient Voices believe that empowering patients to tell their stories in their own words should be a crucial aspect of organisational development and service improvements. As well as complementing the results of surveys and research collected from other channels, it provides healthcare organisations with clear, real-world examples to base decisions on.
Why is Patient Voice so Important?
It’s quite simple: patient voice is at least 50% of patient engagement. While patient engagement includes a great deal of outreach — through things like healthcare campaigns, SMS and email communications, patient portals and healthcare apps — it’s a two-way street. If patients don’t feel their voice is being heard they won’t feel engaged
Research shows poor engagement leads to worsened public health through non-adherence to care, greater likelihood of bad lifestyle choices and lack of knowledge on both treatment options and preventative measures. So, the stakes for involving patients more with their care could hardly be higher.
What’s more, from a purely commercial perspective, the gradual creep of privatisation and dwindling satisfaction with the NHS is elevating the importance of patient voice further. The demand for private healthcare has nearly doubled in the last five years, so it’s increasingly important for UK healthcare organisations to compete for patients as well as perform clinically.
One way to do this is to give patients a greater say in their own care and the opportunity to give feedback on it. Firstly, because you’re only like to improve your offering if you know where your patients feel you’ve fallen short but also because engagement is an important driver of patient satisfaction.
The good news is that technology is making it easier than ever to better engage with your patients. From online portals to SMS and email campaigns to healthcare apps there are plenty of options available for communicating with your patients and giving them a forum to make their voice heard. To learn more about how technology can help you improve patient engagement, take a look at our solutions.