Working with patients to make things better

Southern Cross Hospitals’ Patient Experience and Co-design Programme is part of our ongoing drive to improve patient care services. Southern Cross Hospitals’ Chief of Clinical Governance Rosaleen Robertson explains:

What is the Patient Experience and Co-design Programme?

It’s an initiative that involves teams from each of our hospitals including healthcare consumers/patients who work together on a problem or opportunity, and come up with solutions or ideas to address it. It’s a way of us tapping into patient experiences, expertise and insights to improve patient care – both for the consumer and the healthcare team.

Can you give some examples of the types of projects nurses and consumers will be working on together?

Currently there are 12 projects underway. These include topics such as:

  • improving ways for patients to give us their feedback at the end of their hospital stay so we can be responsive and continually improve our services
  • focussing on getting patient admission forms in to hospitals ‘on time’ (well before admission, and complete) for care-planning 
  • discovering what is critical to creating a positive consumer experience over and above high quality clinical services, the ‘critical non-essentials’, those important essential extra touches that truly make a difference

Is this the first time you’ve carried out a programme like this?

No. In 2012, Southern Cross Hospitals participated in the first co-design programme offered in New Zealand by the Health Quality Safety Commission and UK National Health Service. As a result, we established our Blood Clots and YOU patient engagement initiative which has proven the value of co-design. Read more about it here.

What role do consumers/patients play in the co-design process?

Consumers/patients are essential partners when it comes to co-design. By sharing their ideas, experiences and stories, they give key insights into how we can make changes for the better. We capture their experiences in lots of different ways, and together with designers we test a variety of different solutions to improve experience.

What are the benefits of patient experience and co-design programmes?

Co-design in the health sector has evolved over the last 17 years with significant published benefits. These include improved effectiveness and efficiency of healthcare delivery and, most importantly, a more positive experience both for patients/consumers and healthcare teams. Co-design is a well-recognised quality improvement method which is used in a number of other sectors where it may also be called ‘human-centred’ design.

Jane Bawden has visited hospitals a lot since her twins were born 19 years ago.

Her son was born with special needs and has needed numerous general anaesthetics over his lifetime.

“My main worry was always that uncertainty of how staff would interact with him. How sensitive would they be to his needs? Would they engage and talk with him, or speak as though he wasn’t there?”

It’s a personal experience that means Jane, an Auckland barrister and former member of Southern Cross Hospitals’ Consumer Advisory and National Clinical Medical Committees, knows exactly how crucial patient experience and co-design is.

“The importance of a patient and those close to the patient feeling they’re at the centre of all interactions with their healthcare provider can’t be underestimated. There’s a lot of anxiety for people surrounding admissions to hospital and anything we can do to make the patient feel like an equal partner in their healthcare is critical. The Patient Experience and Co-Design Programme is about learning through story-telling and putting emotion into the experience of healthcare. I see it as compassion in action.”