Conversations with our community: A formal system of anecdotal data capture and response
Orpin, P, Conversations with our community: A formal system of anecdotal data capture and response, Safety and Quality in Health Care Forum Handbook, 29 - 31 October 2008, Adelaide, pp. 18. (2008) [Conference Extract]
Community input and feedback is seen as a valuable aid to service quality improvement. In practice, however, community input is beset by problems with representativeness, timeliness and fit with formal administrative systems. This paper reports on a novel approach – funded under the Victorian Department of Human Service’s Consumer Engagement Strategy ‘Evaluating Effective Participation’ funding - that addresses these issues through the formal and systematic capture, management and response to anecdotal data flowing within the community.
The majority of community input and feedback takes the form of informal and spontaneous comment. While such comments may prompt a service response if heard by the right person at the right time they rarely make it into formal serviced management processes. The project formalised the capture of these data through a widely available, and highly promoted community input system of postcards, email and a 1800 number. These data are then entered into the centre’s quality improvement and risk management system (Riskman) and managed and actioned fully within that system. To complete, and nurture the conversational cycle, the centre has instituted a comprehensive system of staff and community feedback.
The project has produced considerable benefits in at least three areas. The steady stream of community input data has covered a very wide range of types and issues – much wider and more diverse than encountered in other approaches. Handling these data within the existing system has allowed community input to be seamlessly incorporated within formal quality improvement and risk management processes with very little additional demand on resources. The continuity and immediacy of the process has stimulated dialogue and led to actions and outcomes on many issues that would otherwise have either dragged on or become lost in the system.
In the short time that it has been running the model has overcome many of the traditional barriers to community input. The process of collecting-anecdotal consumer based information has activated considerable energy in staff to monitor, evaluate and model service delivery according to contemporary consumer need. There is a growing sense of connection to the service on the part of the community and growing sense of the value of community input among service staff. With information filtered through a risk management lens, and with action allocated against quality improvement criteria, the method integrates easily into existing quality and risk management systems.