Big data is one of the most prominent buzzwords in the technology landscape today. Knowing what and potentially why customers think and act the way they do is a critical component of asuccessful enterprise, regardless of thesize of a company or the niche audience they serve. But data is not only valuable in the business of offering products to the masses – it is a necessary part of service industries as well, including healthcare systems.

Recently, technology-based customer feedback innovator, HappyorNot, conducted a survey of patient satisfaction levels from more than 6 million patients spanning 25 countries. Scores were assigned based on data gathered from the patients directly, representing a percentage of satisfaction for each country. Sweden ranked highest with a 92.37% satisfaction rate, followed by the US at fourth (89.33%) and the UK rounding out the top ten (81.60%).

While it is interesting to see the results of survey responses in this capacity, the power of insightful data in the realm of patient care satisfaction reaches far beyond a single report.

Electronic patient survey

The Role of Patient Experience Surveys

HappyorNot offers a simple, self-contained method to acquire feedback directly from patients – an innovative solution for a fairly complex need within healthcare systems. Through a single, easy to use terminal within the doctor’s office or facility, the company gives patients the opportunity to share feedback on care received. Four smileys ranging from happy to unhappy sit just below an on-screen question posed by the facility. Patients push the corresponding button that best aligns with their experience, and the data is then transmitted to a cloud-based reporting service. In the blink of an eye, healthcare providers have valuable data on how they are performing, for each and every patient.

The data gathered from the survey provided some insight into how patients feel about their care experience, including specific questions focused in the following areas:

  • Practitioner professionalism – did the patient feel as though needs were met during the visit

  • Operational performance – did the patient wait too long to be seen

  • Department-specific performance – was the care provided in a specific department satisfactory

  • Overall satisfaction – did the patient feel that the total experience was positive

Having data on these metrics is a crucial aspect of understanding not only patient experiences but also adherence to overarching healthcare standards. Analyzing data from patient care surveys allows systems and facilities to understand how prevention and treatment processes are working in real-time, as well as work toward higher level clinical outcomes and patient safety. Improving these factors leads to less health care utilization, lessening the financial blow to both patients and providers brought about by low-level care.

Having data on patient experiences within healthcare systems is gaining traction among providers and consumers alike for these reasons. The ability to publicly share information in an effort to assist patientsin making decisions regarding providers and facilities is a necessary step toward the overall improvement of healthcare systems across the board. While the smiley terminals offer a simple solution for gathering patient care data, there is cause to believe that permanent, computerized feedback stations that collect more in-depth data from patients could improve the quality of care to an even greater extent.

Limitations of Current Patient Data Collection Methods

Two main sources of data exist for healthcare system performance: the Care Quality Commission (CQC) and the Health and Social Care Information Centre. First, the CQC, acting as the independent regulator of health and social care in England, requires each healthcare provider to register with the organisation and meet a number of legal requirements prior to providing care. Once registered, services offered by each provider are monitored through the use of data derived from patient survey information, in-house inspections, and national data sources. To help patients make the most informed decisions on provider choice, the CQC publishes periodic reports which offer insight as to how well a provider is performing. Unfortunately, the CQC has a substantial lag between receiving data and making it public, and not all providers are inspected and subsequently rated in a timely manner.

In addition to the CQC, the Health and Social Care Information Centre is a national provider of information, data and IT systems for both health and social care. Each quarter, the organisation gathers data on complaints relating to NHS Hospital and Community Health Services – a clear indication of the quality of patient care within NHS itself. The quarterly report from the Health and Social Care Information Centre is made available to the public with information on the total number of complaints for the period, the number of new complaints, and the number of resolved and unresolved complaints. The purpose of the data is to maintain a level of transparency between patients and providers, but given that not all providers respond or have adequate methods to capture complaints in-house, the information only lends a partial hand in promoting patient care quality.

Looking Ahead

The overall satisfaction of patients is becoming a profoundly necessary measure of the performance of various healthcare systems. The HappyorNot smiley terminals use simple data to develop meaningful insight into the quality of care in a number of healthcare facilities, but more can be done. A representative from the UK-based team of medical solicitors, Patient Claim Line, feels strongly that computerized patient feedback stations like smiley terminals are a step in the right direction; however, an understanding of how the patient data is to be used in affecting quality patient care is a necessary rung in the data ladder.

In order for patients to receive the highest quality care, healthcare systems must not only be willing to listen to concerns but also capable of gathering that data in an accurate, safe way. Further, healthcare systems and the companies that support them have to understand that patient experiences are not a single layer deep. Complaints about treatment, facilities, safety and other critical aspects of care can be highly complex, creating the need for technology able to collect and share advanced data. The combination of big data and healthcare is a promising path for providers and most importantly, the patients who rely on and deserve the highest level of care.

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