In recent months we have been heads down, tails up delivering an inpatient experience programme across 40 public hospitals in Ireland. It would have to have been one of the most interesting projects we have worked on and there are several aspects worth mentioning.
One of our first observations is the importance of an effective communication strategy. The first key audience is the participating hospitals, from senior leaders and quality teams to the front-line staff, so they know what is happening, why and what their role is in a successful project. The second audience is the patients – they are the ones who need to respond to the survey invitation. We thought it was a brilliant use of resources when serviettes used on meals trays in all the hospitals during the survey month were printed with information on the survey programme. Simple but so clever! The third audience is the public. It’s their money being spent and perhaps more than any other country we work in, the Irish public are passionate and concerned about the state of their health system. Informing them of the national programme is a double edge sword; it shows action and commitment to improvement but it also makes it essential that real changes take place as a result of the feedback from patients.
The programme leaders in the Irish Government understood that effective communication was a critical success factor, allocated budget and developed an effective communication strategy right from the beginning of the programme. It was not an afterthought or something cobbled together from left-over funds.
Last but not least in terms of great communication strategy, programme communication was centred at a dedicated website www.patientexperience.ie
This was a masterstroke, particularly when the project was jointly run by three different Government departments and agencies. More often we see pages on patient experiences programmes displayed within general organisation websites. These pages are rarely designed or written for the public. The website for the Irish patient experience programme is a central repository for all information and activity around the programme. It arguable saved a lot of time for different stakeholders as they knew exactly where to put information and how to find it. It also involves the general public in the programme in a way that a more specialised, harder-to-find web location doesn’t.
As the programme moves from implementation to follow up and as it evolves over years and into new services, this dedicated website will become even more valuable as the centrepiece of the Ireland commitment to patient experience improvement.