What Is Patient Voice and Why Does it Matter?
Increasingly, the concept of patient voice is becoming a focal point of discussion in the wider healthcare community. But what is patient voice, exactly? And what role does it play in patient engagement?
What is Patient Voice?
Put simply, patient voice refers to the opinions and experiences of your patients and how these views inform the medical treatment they receive. But how do you utilise this information to build a better health care experience? If it was simply a case of listening to your patient's thoughts, surely healthcare would have mastered it a long time ago?
Patient voice can refer to many different things, all of which come under the broader umbrella of patient engagement, including:
Involving Patients in Decision Making
Of course, no one's suggesting that patients should be given the power to decide which treatments are best for them or which medication they want to take – that would lead to pandemonium!
However, the idea of giving patients a greater level of autonomy aims to transform healthcare from something that happens to them into a process that happens with them – incorporating their input, opinions, and understanding.
Sounds noble, right? Well, in reality it's more than that. Countless studies have come to the conclusion that involving patients in the decision making process can lead to them:
- 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 is a growing consensus in developed nations that research should be something that is carried out with or by members of the public, rather than for or about them.
The term 'public' here is based upon the idea that all of us have been, are currently, or will be receivers of healthcare. It includes anyone who has a stake in healthcare: patients, potential patients, carers, people who use health services, and organisations representing care users.
Public involvement can refer to anything from patients offering their thoughts as members of a project steering group to them helping to develop research materials or simply undertaking interviews with research participants. The important point is that the 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 – benefiting healthcare in the long-run.
This point may seem obvious, but perhaps the most important application of patient voice is simply to give the end-users of your services a way to voice their opinions on what went well, what didn't, and where you could improve. We've discussed the importance of patient satisfaction elsewhere, but it bears repeating: if you don't provide your patients with a forum to air their views, positive or negative, how are you going to assess your performance in anything other than clinical outcomes?
But, how should one go about measuring patient satisfaction? Well, that depends on your patients and what's best for your organisation. If you're interested in hearing from younger patients, online surveys would be a better option than traditional paper surveys, for example.
The benefits to healthcare organisations of ensuring patients are left satisfied with their care are manifold. Patients that have a great experience are more likely to return to you for future treatment; well informed patients positively affect efficiency levels (they're more likely to cooperate during treatment); happy patients will recommend your practice to their friends and family... the list goes on and on. Taking patient voice into account will allow you build a service that leaves your patients satisfied every time.
First-hand Patient Stories
Finally, an interesting and evocative application of patient voice is allowing your patients to tell their own stories. So much of how we learn as human beings is through the passing down of stories, and there is so much to learn from hearing stakeholders' experience of care first-hand.
Initiatives, like the one set up by the non-profit Patient Opinion Australia, believe that empowering patients to tell their stories in their own words can have a major impact on organisational development and service improvements. After all, it provides healthcare organisations with clear, real-world examples to base their decisions on.
Why Is Patient Voice so Important?
Patient voice makes up 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 and satisfied with their healthcare.
Poor engagement levels lead to worsened public health through:
- Non-adherence to recommended care
- A greater likelihood of bad lifestyle decisions
- A lack of knowledge regarding both treatment options and preventative measures
Therefore, the stakes for improving patient engagement could hardly be higher.
From a commercial perspective, amplifying patient voice in your organisation will give you a competitive advantage too. Being perceived as a company that cares as much about their patients' care as the money in their wallets will really help you stand out from the crowd and build the trust that is so fundamental in the healthcare industry.
Thankfully, advances in technology are making it easier than ever to better engage with your patients. Online portals, SMS and email campaigns, dedicated healthcare apps – the tools now available to healthcare professionals will no doubt improve patients' experience and help healthcare organisations better understand how they can care for them. To learn more about how technology can help you improve patient engagement, why not have a look at our solutions or check out our comprehensive ebook.