Consumer (patient) engagement has been considered critical to improving the quality of care provided by health care services. Consumer complaints provide a valuable source of insight into safety and quality related problems within healthcare organisations.
Consumers’ perspectives are unique given their firsthand experience, at every stage of the care pathway. Consumers are legitimately positioned, through this experience, to evaluate the care and services received in terms of whether their care goals, needs and expectations have been met, and their assessment of their outcomes of care.
Health consumers are sensitive to, and able to recognise, a range of problems in healthcare delivery, some of which are not identified by traditional systems of healthcare monitoring (eg incident reporting systems, retrospective case reviews) or observable by staff who do not view the service through a ‘service user’ perspective. Thus, consumer complaints can provide important and additional information to healthcare organisations on how to improve consumer safety and implement quality improvement. Furthermore, analysing data on negative consumer experiences strengthens the ability of healthcare organisations to detect systemic problems in care.
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