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Sue Davies: 'Live feedback is the future but it’s the response that matters'

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Our live feedback app has caught the imagination of the internet-savvy population who enjoy fast, spontaneous interactions, says Sue Davies

The need for openness in the NHS is greater than ever. We are working in the shadows cast over nursing’s credibility by events at Mid Staffordshire and we need to gain and retain public confidence.

When I was approached to pilot the Feedback App on my ward at Birmingham Children’s Hospital, my first thought was: how will I ever be able to respond to every message in a timely fashion?

The concept of inviting children, young people, parents, carers, friends and family to effectively text me personally 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and ensure that a response and action was started in real time was daunting to say the least.

Several comments posted online in response to the article on 22 February (“Trust introduces ‘live’ patient feedback system,” echoed this concern. However, in reality, implementing the app into daily ward routine has been simple. As with everything in nursing, the key is teamwork. Extending the rights to respond and monitor the app beyond the ward manager to junior sisters (band 6 nurses) and setting a realistic expectation that comments would be viewed regularly and responded to within 24 hours, ideally shift by shift, made this achievable.

My second thought was: what kind of feedback would we get? This was an irrational response as, historically, feedback through our traditional methods, such as comment cards and quality walkabouts, has always been largely positive.

“What is it about nursing that makes us first look at what we can do better rather than celebrate what we do well. It appears to be is easier to expect criticism as a profession than expect praise”

It made me wonder what is it about nursing that makes us first look at what we can do better rather than celebrate what we do well. It appears to be is easier to expect criticism as a profession than expect praise. Perhaps it’s the inherent intent of nurses to provide the best quality care that makes us always strive to improve and at times be frustrated about services provided due to unforeseen events and external pressures beyond our control.

In reality, the comments have been overwhelmingly positive, praising standards of care from nurses, clinical support workers, doctors and student nurses, as well as our facilities. This has been extremely rewarding for the whole team.

The beauty of the app lies in its feedback mechanism, whereby a personal response is sent to individual mobile devices. This is in contrast to the cards, where generic responses are posted weekly on a patient experience poster in the main ward area.

It also means that we can keep a line of communication open with patients, and their families and friends to ensure that they know that the ward manager’s office door is genuinely always open.

For the person posting a comment, there is an assurance that their comment has been acted upon, whether that action be sharing good practice and praise with the team, or reporting a sticking lock on the parents’ toilet for example, instead of them wondering if anyone looked at their comment at all.

It’s important to note that our app does not replace face-to-face feedback, which remains our most important way of finding out what people think. It is just a fantastic addition, catching the imagination of the internet-savvy growing population who enjoy fast, spontaneous interactions.

The ageing population means technology is catching up. Today’s texting teenagers will be tomorrow’s grandparents wielding smartphones and mobile devices - although I have met many grandparents who do this already.

Live, interactive feedback is the way forward but it is important to remember that, however data is collected, the response and action taken are the true quantitative measures of effectiveness.

Sue Davies is ward 5 manager at Birmingham Children’s Hospital

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