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The bashful doctor’s guide to asking patients for feedback

December 3, 2012

I’ve been asked to write a few words for a doctor who was unsure how best to embed continuous patient experience in their daily clinical practice. “How do I ask for feedback, isn’t that sort of cheesy?”

A few reminders before we start:

1. Your patients (and their families/carers) don’t mind being asked

2. It makes them feel important (which of course they are) and shows that their views are valued by their doctor

3. Frequently, they want to say thank you and you’ve just made it easier for them to do so

4. The chance to help fellow patients, by pointing out what needs to be improved, is typically welcomed by patients

5. Every doctor I know who has properly embedded patient feedback in their practice has learnt from the process and finds it a positive experience

 

Despite this, many doctors remain reluctant to ask for feedback or to invite those they serve to “rate and review” the care they deliver? Sometimes this is because colleagues consider it immodest to ask for feedback or, more often, just don’t know what to say.

Below are a few approaches that others have found to be helpful in this respect. 

“Please help us improve the care provided by the department/practice by providing your feedback” (Even if you are asking for personal feedback, depersonalising in this way might be easier for you.)

“It is important for us/me to know how you feel about your care…”

“To help me improve the care provided could you use this form/website to give your feedback?”

“It is important to me to know how you felt about the care you’ve received. Please could you use this anonymous service to provide your thoughts on your care?”

“We’ve found the views and experiences of patients hugely valuable in improving the care for the next patient – please could you help us by sharing your thoughts?”

“Good or bad, I’d greatly value your thoughts on the care you’ve received today”

“Thank you for coming to clinic today, could I ask you to do one thing for me before I see you again?”

 

What is clear is that when doctors ask directly for feedback it makes a huge difference to the number of patients who will share their experience, both with respect to their individual clinician and on the overall care. In the near future we will hopefully have moved forward from the situation in which many of our patients require “permission” or invitation to provide their invaluable comments on care quality, but until then it falls to the innovative, bold doctors to make it simple and easy for patients to guide, teach and improve us as clinicians.

If you are already seeking feedback from patients, how do you do it? What works, what doesn’t? (And no, the annual hospital/practice survey doesn’t count!)

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