Unlocking the potential of healthcare complaints to improve hospital care (UP-CIC)

Most assessments of quality of care in Irish healthcare services are focused on healthcare workers’ opinions, statistics (e.g., how many patients got infections), or investigating large errors. However, these assessments fail to consider patients’ unique insights into quality of care and support improvement in services. For example, patients have knowledge about interactions with healthcare workers, whether care was patient-centred, and whether a patient's dignity was respected. Patients often write complaints about care with the aim of helping the service improve care for future patients. Sometimes these complaints may be about small issues, but they can also be about major problems. More than 12,000 complaints are written annually about Irish healthcare organisations. While these complaints receive individual responses, there is no focus on analysing these complaints together and using this data to learn about the key issues in specific services and the healthcare system. This means that patients’ desire, and ability, to contribute to identifying problems are limited. Researchers at the London School of Economics have developed the Healthcare Complaints Analysis Tool (HCAT) that guides the systematic analysis of the cause and severity of complaints. 
The proposed research will utilise the HCAT to analyse complaints received about Irish healthcare organisations. This project will tell us what patients complain about, how serious their complaints are, and will allow for the identification of hotspots and blindspots in quality and safety in the Irish healthcare system. The data collected will be analysed and discussed by relevant stakeholders (patients, healthcare workers, policy makers) that will work together to decide how the feedback patients provide, and identified hotspots and blindspots, in healthcare complaints can be most effectively used to make changes that will improve patient care.

Award Date
20 April 2018
Award Value
Principal Investigator
Dr Paul O'Connor
Host Institution
National University of Ireland, Galway
Applied Partnership Awards