Around just about every corner, there is a story about the use of data in today’s business landscape. Customers are asked to provide information on their location when visiting a specific website, behind-the-scenes technology gathers data relating to buyer preferences, and experience surveys are sent within moments of completing a transaction – all for the purpose of improving the customer’s experience. Businesses understand the importance of collecting certain pieces of information on their customers, whether it is for the purpose of creating new products or services, or to enhance satisfaction with current offerings.

Not surprisingly, the business of healthcare is no different.

In the first quarter of 2016, technology-based company, HappyorNot, conducted a widescale, multi-national survey focused on the patient experience. Collecting feedback from more than 6 million patients in 25 different countries, HappyorNot used patient input to determine the satisfaction rate assigned to healthcare systems by country. Topping the list was Sweden with a score of 92.37%, with the US coming in at number four, scoring an 89.33% satisfaction rate. The published results represent a growing trend in healthcare communities around the world: patient satisfaction is a metric that should be – and must be – measured to achieve quality care.

Big Data and the Future of Patient Care

A HAPPYorNOT feedback station in Switzerland. Image courtesy of Kecko at Flickr. Under CC Commons License (CC BY 2.0)

Patient Experience as a Metric of Care Quality

The report published by HappyorNot was a product of its own innovative solution to gathering patient experience data. With the help of smiley terminals – free-standing or wall-mounted feedback stations placed in healthcare facilities – patients have the opportunity to submit answers to simple questions focused on specific aspects of their visit. For instance, a patient may be asked to respond to a question about their overall satisfaction regarding their experience with a certain department, wait times, or needs met or left unresolved as a result of their visit. The smiley terminals only require the patient to push a button to respond; that data is then sent to a cloud-based reporting service that provides the feedback to healthcare facilities.

The smiley terminals pave the way for gathering important metrics via computerized feedback systems within healthcare facilities. These measurements of patient satisfaction relating to the level of care are a necessary factor in achieving a high level of adherence to healthcare standards, patient safety guidelines, and broad clinical outcomes. Additionally, the ability to analyze data in a quick and accurate way leads to a better understanding of how well or poorly certain treatment and prevention methods are working. Providers have an opportunity to utilize patient care data to make improvements that could ultimately lead to a reduced need for frequent healthcare system use. While useful in application, the smiley terminals are limited in scope, creating the need for more advanced feedback systems for patients to use consistently.

Current Patient Data Collection

The ability to collect data from patients in real-time and subsequently publish that data is becoming an embraced trend within healthcare communities, not only among providers but among the individuals who need care in the first place. By gathering accurate feedback, reports linked to the efficiency of providers can be shared easily with the masses, helping consumers make decisions on where to seek out care, and what to expect.

Currently, patient experience data can be collected through a number of outlets, including standardized surveys, complaints, and feedback from providers. One of the most notable organizations working to improve the collection and use of patient experience data is the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI). With the intent of improving the current healthcare system to effectively boost the health of the population while keeping costs low, IHI developed the Triple Aim initiative that has since become a guiding framework for both public and private health organizations around the country.

IHI’s Triple Aim incorporates patient experience data as one of its three pillars, the other two being improving population health and managing per capita cost. The patient experience aspect of IHI’s initiative is measured through a myriad of sources, including:

• Responses from standardized patient surveys, including global questions from US CAHPS and How’s Your Health surveys
• Experience questions from the Care Quality Commission
• Recommendation likelihood from survey responses
• Key dimensions of measurement like the Institute of Medicine’s six aims for improvement

Although a robust collection of data, real-time utilization of patient experience information is still lacking in healthcare facilities and overarching healthcare systems.

Future Implications

As organizations lean further into the collection and use of patient experience data, solutions like HappyorNot terminals are a welcome addition to current, delayed data assembly techniques. A representative from UK-based Patient Claim Line, a firm of medical solicitors that receives hospital claims from dissatisfied patients regularly, strongly supports the use of computerized feedback stations within healthcare facilities to lessen the occurrence of patient discontent. However, they add that caution should be taken to safeguard patient information while a focus is placed on enhancing the data collection process. Although simple feedback terminals are beneficial in gathering immediate data, additional measures should be taken moving forward to amass information on more complex patient experience issues.

Patients should have the ability to share their experiences quickly and accurately so their voices are clearly heard; this is where improvement in healthcare systems begins. A national survey indicated that one in six Americans sought out reviews of doctors and clinicians online, while one in seven referred to online rankings or reviews of hospitals prior to making a decision on their plan for care. But the power in feedback data goes even further. Research shows that healthcare facilities with poor patient experience data are far more likely to make necessary improvements than facilities without similar reports. The collection and use of patient experience data is a necessary factor in maintaining a sound healthcare system for patients and providers alike.

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I am a health editor with a degree in Journalism and Social Communications, currently writing for several online health publications like NaturalNews.com and TalkHealthPartnership.com. I work as a PR consultant for a digital agency called 90 Digital. Find me on Twitter at @morienus

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