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Leveraging the voice of the patient

Having a patient-centric focus in healthcare is essential. Whilst many organisations aspire to put the ‘voice of the patient’ at the very heart of their business, very few can say that they have truly achieved this goal. Operational pressures, cost efficiencies and external factors can mean the patient is not always heard, and healthcare organisations in the Kingdom ignore this to their detriment. As competition increases between health providers across Saudi Arabia, it is mission critical that the voice of the patient permeates every aspect of the organisation and is built into the rhythm of continuous improvement of healthcare providers, so that they stay ahead of the pack.

Our research through the Serco Cares programme helped outline the importance of understanding the voice of the patient when it comes to staff behaviours. We looked at how we can influence a positive mental attitude in patients, and our research showed that there were six factors that contribute to this.

  1. A sense of retaining control over their life
  2. Regular social interaction no matter how brief
  3. Regular distractions from their condition
  4. Responsive and engaging staff interactions
  5. Feeling part of the ward community
  6. Being able to discuss their progress with anyone.

All of this feeds into the importance of putting the patient at the centre of the service. This is very much our goal at Serco; we look to enable people involved in the delivery of services with the latest technology and data analytics that ultimately helps deliver better patient outcomes.

Sometimes organisations think that it is purely down to the medical staff to hear the voice of the patient, but in reality, the voice of the patient needs to be heard by people at every level and at every function. When you think about it, patients are seen by multiple people, from the obvious doctors and nurses who treat the source of the medical issue, through to care and housekeeping staff who support on other levels and in some cases these staff interact with patient five times more than busy clinical staff.

So therefore, it is vital that every patient-facing touch point is seen as an opportunity for organisations to deliver world-class care, with an empathy and understanding that puts the patient front and centre. Training therefore, is particularly important, as anyone who engages with a patient needs to be equipped with the right skills and knowledge to enable them to deliver the best service possible.

Patient transport and travel:

One example that Serco has investigated is the patient’s experience getting to and from the hospital. In this particular case, this will impact upon patient flow. As a people business our services look to understand the travel requirements of patients or groups of patients – some may look to travel alone, be assisted by family members or require assisted transportation in order to access services. By putting the patient-care at the heart of this delivery, we have the opportunity to ensure a higher level of attendance, a higher level of clinic productivity, more timely patient discharge and an increased patient experience as a result.

Patient Discharge:

Another opportunity would be when it comes to patients exiting the hospital after discharge. In a 1,000 bed hospital in the UK, we investigated issues around discharge that impacted upon patient flow. This particular hospital was at maximum capacity and needed to enhance discharge processes to improve flow, reduce length of stay and reduce A&E waiting times. Bringing together all the stakeholders and activities required for a smooth discharge was the starting point, then Serco constructed a luxurious discharge lounge for patients to relax in whilst these activities were performed. Enhancing the environment that patients are waiting in and reducing waiting times will help improve the broader patient experience. This hospital was able to release over 23 beds per day and have 30% of discharges from wards by noon, as a result.

This helps to have a positive impact on Serco’s way of embedding a culture where the staff are empowered, motivated and clear about their responsibility to positively impact the healthcare environment. This therefore helps improve the patient, staff and visitor experience. And ultimately we have seen first-hand how this approach helps the patient directly in terms of their recovery process.

Earlier this year we were very proud to launch ExperienceLab by Serco to the region, which brings together behavioural and cognitive research capabilities to understand the experiences of patients and staff to understand what is going on at ward level, why it is happening and how to make improvements. By having access to such a high level of data and unique insights we can positively recommend changes to healthcare organisations in a way that has never been done before.

As the GCC region continues its strides towards providing world-class healthcare, it is mission critical that the voice of the patient permeates every aspect of the organisation and is built into the rhythm of continuous improvement of healthcare providers, so that they stay ahead of the game.

In the aftermath of a challenging year due to COVID-19, one thing we can take away is that our healthcare sector is valued more than ever. By putting process excellence, public service and the patient voice at the heart of the healthcare industry, the healthcare industry in this region has a bright future ahead.