NPS Blog

The UK’s grand experiment: A prescription for better healthcare

Net Promoter System podcastHow do you choose a doctor or a hospital? Whether you’re pregnant and sizing up hospitals for your delivery or looking for a dermatologist to examine a mole, you will probably seek recommendations from your friends and family.

That’s because your health—and the health of your family members—is crucial. You need reliable information about how to get the best care. And healthcare is so personal that you probably want the perspective of someone you really trust.

Andrew MacPhersonHistorically, healthcare providers have focused more on what they term “clinical outcomes” than on patient satisfaction or loyalty. But the world is changing. The cost of care rises every year, so governments and insurance companies are pressuring consumers to choose the most efficient providers. Regardless of whether healthcare is provided by private companies or by the government, quality of care has become a political issue of significant importance in many countries around the world. And yet it’s generally been tough for healthcare providers to know how well they’re meeting patients’ needs in a way that helps them improve.

In the UK, healthcare is provided by the National Health Service. In the early to mid 2000s, the NHS began to promote patient choice of providers within the system, partly in response to persistent complaints about quality of care and a sense that patients should be in charge of their own care.

In 2012 UK Prime Minister David Cameron took the controversial step of declaring that patient voice in healthcare would be a central theme of his administration’s priorities. Now, after treatments, NHS providers ask patients for feedback about their experience. The results are public, allowing other patients to make informed decisions about where to seek care. And providers can use the feedback to improve their approach.

I talked to Andrew MacPherson, who leads the strategic projects team for the National Health Service in the Midlands and East regions, in August. During our conversation, which recently aired on the Net Promoter System podcast, we discussed the Friends and Family Test, the National Health Service’s name for its customer service effort, and other challenges that are unique to healthcare.

Here are some excerpts from our discussion:

On the impact of the Friends and Family Test:

“The fact that every single hospital in England, every month, publishes statistics around the patient’s experience in that proceeding month—I think that’s quite a significant. … It makes the patient experience and the acceleration of what’s right and the alert to what’s wrong much more immediate on a day-to-day basis in one of the largest employers in the world. So I, I think that’s quite phenomenal.”

On the technology the NHS is using to collect and share feedback:

“We’ve had a range of mechanisms being introduced ranging from all the familiar ones from tech space, Web, to iPads, etc. One of the areas where we’re having a lot of traction and success now is around text-based feedback. Because quite a few clinicians, hospitals and general practitioners already have appointment reminder systems operating on a text messaging–based platform.”

You can listen to my discussion with Andrew on iTunes or through the player below. Click here to browse more Net Promoter System podcasts.

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