At Birmingham children’s hospital our children, young people and families are at the heart of everything we do and we’re committed to making sure they have the best possible experience when they are with us.
We’re always looking for innovative new ways to improve what we do but know we can’t do this without really listening to what they think about our services and taking action to make it better.
In a paediatric environment it’s just as important to hear about the experiences of our younger children and teens as it is to hear from parents and carers. This is why in addition to our most important resource, face-to-face communication, we offer a number of ways to feed back, such as feedback cards, ward surveys, texts and emails, but we find that the traditional methods can be slow and stop us from being able to respond as quickly as we would like.
The way that people communicate has changed so much in recent years and almost everyone who comes to our hospital has a smartphone. This is why we were keen to see how mobile technology could be used to gather feedback in a way that suits young people, families and staff.
We worked with Digital Life Sciences, staff, children and young people to come up with a feedback app that is fit for purpose and easy to use. We knew it needed to be anonymous to encourage honest and frank feedback and that a lengthy registration process would put people off. So we created a system where users fill in a text box and then click to send their comment directly to the manager in charge of the ward or area they have visited – in real-time.
They may be waiting in outpatients, sending the third or fourth comment of their inpatient stay, or they might be at home after being discharged – the app provides the flexibility to give feedback at any time.
It is also important for us to be open and transparent so that other people can benefit from the feedback. All the messages and responses are published live on our website, with strict processes in place to remove bad language and protect patient and staff confidentiality.
But without buy-in from our staff, we wouldn’t have been able to make it work. Our nursing teams were involved in the development process and made sure it worked for them and our patients and families too.
Despite a few initial concerns about the technology and how it would fit into their daily routines, staff really see the benefit and find it rewarding to see the messages and be able to respond straight away. It helps validate the important role they play in the hospital and their impact on patients and families.
Our young people and families love it too because there are no cards to fill in and post and they can give their thoughts at a time that suits them, quickly and instantly – and they get a response back.
We’ve had around 500 messages since our pilot began and we’re really excited about the app’s future. We’ve have had lots of interest already from other trusts and I’m really pleased that our hard work will help improve patient experience elsewhere too.
Michelle McLoughlin is chief nurse at Birmingham children’s hospital
This article is published by Guardian Professional. Join the Healthcare Professionals Network to receive regular emails and exclusive offers. The Guardian has launched its Healthcare Innovation Awards to celebrate and share best practice across different areas of the healthcare sector. We want to showcase ideas or services that significantly improve the quality or management of care for patients. Entries for this year’s awards close at midnight on Friday 28 June.