Does systematic analysis of patient complaints and compensation cases at hospitals provide useful information to guide quality improvement? Experience from Denmark

Link to article at PubMed

BMJ Open Qual. 2023 Feb;12(1):e002101. doi: 10.1136/bmjoq-2022-002101.


BACKGROUND: Patient complaints and compensation cases are analysed individually and do not allow for organisational learning. Systematic information on complaint patterns needs evidence-based measures. The Healthcare Complaints Analysis Tool (HCAT) can systematically code and analyse complaints and compensation claims, but whether this information is useful for quality improvement is underexplored. We aim to explore if and how HCAT information is perceived useful to inform healthcare quality gaps.

METHODS: To explore the HCAT's usefulness for quality improvement purposes, we used an iterative process. We accessed all complaints relating to a large university hospital. Trained HCAT raters systematically coded all cases, using the Danish version of HCAT.

INTERVENTION: The intervention had four phases: (1) coding of cases, (2) education, (3) selection of HCAT analyses for dissemination, (4) 'dashboard' development and delivery of targeted HCAT reports. To study the interventions and phases, we used quantitative and qualitative approaches. The coding patterns were descriptively displayed on department and hospital level. The educational programme was monitored using passing rates, coding reliability checks and rater feedback. Online interviews recorded dissemination feedback. We used a phenomenological approach with thematised quotations from the interviews to analyse the usefulness of the information from cases coded.

RESULTS: We coded 5217 complaint cases (11 056 complaint points). The average case coding time was 8.5 min (95% CI 8.2 to 8.7). All four raters passed the online test with >80% correct answers. Using rater feedback, we handled 25 cases of doubt. None affected the HCAT structure or categories. Interviews verified the usefulness of analyses after expert group dissemination. Three themes were important: 'overview of complaints', 'learning from complaints' and 'listening to the patients'. Stakeholders perceived the 'dashboard' development as highly relevant.

CONCLUSION: Through the development process with several adjustments, stakeholders found the systematic approach useful for quality improvement. The hospital management evaluated the approach as promising and decided to test the approach in clinical practice.

PMID:36796865 | PMC:PMC9936271 | DOI:10.1136/bmjoq-2022-002101

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