Patient feedback a valuable tool in general practice

Larissa Dubecki

21/12/2017 2:40:25 PM

The symbiosis between a positive patient experience and positive health outcomes is becoming increasingly clear.

Patient feedback can be especially valuable in helping to provide a strong basis for quality and safety in a general practice.
Patient feedback can be especially valuable in helping to provide a strong basis for quality and safety in a general practice.

A number of studies have confirmed the link between patient satisfaction and continuity of care, long regarded as a crucial factor in successful health outcomes.
In that light, patient feedback is an especially valuable tool for GPs. The close link between positive patient experience and a strong and ongoing relationship with a particular general practice helps to provide a strong basis for quality and safety, ultimately working towards better patient outcomes. Seeking patient feedback and having them feel part of the practice and its processes can also help in creating a strong business model.
The collation of patient feedback as an important tool for a practice has always been an important aspect of the RACGP’s Standards for general practices (the Standards). The Standards’ ‘Patient feedback guide’ explains what to do and the options that are available to practices in order to meet the patient feedback indicators – whether they outsource the patient feedback to an external provider, or develop and submit their own patient questionnaire.
Professor Glynn Kelly, Chair of the RACGP Expert Committee – Standards for General Practices (REC–SGP), told newsGP that no matter which of the options a general practice chooses, the framework encourages early identification of performance issues.
‘Patients need to be heard. It is not simply some bureaucratic requirement but a quality improvement activity,’ he said. ‘It’s very valuable to practices because they will not see things a patient will see.
‘It’s known from overseas that if a patient has a good experience they are more likely to listen to the GP, to work with the GP, and the outcomes are better. But we also need to remember practices are business and patients are your customers.’
Professor Kelly said that general practices wishing to develop and utilise their own practice-specific patient feedback tools should realise doing so requires an upfront investment, particularly in staff time.
‘However, the benefits to practices developing their own questionnaire is that the staff have a sense of ownership over the process, it is directed to specific quality improvements in your practice and it can be repeated as required,’ he said. ‘For instance, you can ask for patient feedback on one issue then another issue a few months later.’
Professor Kelly said major issues for patients revealed in GPs’ feedback surveys included reducing waiting times and phone access.
‘Often with waiting times you can’t really do much about it,’ he said. ‘For many it’s about whether the GP listens to them – it can be illuminating for a GP to ask that question.’

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