How can we use patient experience surveys to improve care?

One new answer, for cancer patients, comes from our analysis of the National Cancer Patient Experience Survey, published this week in the European Journal of Cancer Care

We found strong inequalities in experience between patients with different cancer diagnoses, and these were pretty consistent across the whole patient journey, from pre-diagnosis care to post hospital discharge.

We also found variation in experience occurring even between patients with different cancers treated by the same clinical specialty. For example, we found that among patients treated by multi-disciplinary teams for lower gastrointestinal cancers (such as colon, rectal, anal and small intestine cancers) there is a strong variation in reported experience with, for example, patients with anal cancer reporting worse experience compared with those with colon cancer.

We can use these insights when trying to use this survey to improve care.

Because we see substantial variation in experience reported by patients treated within the same specialty and multi-disciplinary team service environments, the observed differences in experience between patients with different cancers are likely to chiefly reflect disease-specific factors rather than variation in quality of care provided. Differences in the promptness of diagnosis, the treatment burden and the prognosis of each cancer are likely to be three important elements for cancer patients.

And so, this finding, from an analysis of patient experience survey data, gives the kind of insight that can be, hopefully, directly translated into ways to improve care.

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  • The Cambridge Centre for Health Services Research (CCHSR) is a thriving collaboration between the University of Cambridge and RAND Europe. We aim to inform health policy and practice by conducting research and evaluation studies of organisation and delivery of healthcare, including safety, effectiveness, efficiency and patient experience.