Why is AHPEQS needed

Australian Hospital Patient Experience Question Set (AHPEQS) allows hospitals and healthcare services to listen to patients and use their experiences to help improve patient care.

Benefits of AHPEQS

This is a tool that can contribute to Australian health care in three main ways:

  • Providing information to help improve safety and quality in ways that matter to patients

  • Providing an opportunity for national consistency in future patient experience measurement and reporting across public and private sectors

  • Helping health service organisations to achieve National Safety and Quality Health Service (NSQHS) Standards (second edition).

Improving safety and quality

'Patients and those who love and care for them are likely to be the first to raise the alarm about the quality of care at a hospital or other provider, if only they are listened to and the significance of what they are saying is properly appreciated.'

Robert Francis QC (2013), Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust Public Inquiry (Final Report, Vol.1. p.585.)

Systematically and routinely recording patient experiences is important because patients can offer a unique perspective on the quality of health care. Health service organisations can identify specific areas for improvement from patient views.

AHPEQS helps to improve the safety and quality of health care by allowing organisations to see things from the patient’s perspective. This can help organisations to:

  • Achieve better outcomes
    Good experiences of care have been associated with good clinical and quality of life outcomes. Research shows that organisations with more positive patient experiences often have lower readmission rates, shorter lengths of stay, fewer hospital-acquired complications (such as bloodstream infections) and fewer serious safety events. Such outcomes are also associated with greater efficiency.

  • Identify safety or quality breakdowns
    Patients and their carers and loved ones have a vital role in noticing poor or unsafe practices, attitudes and atmospheres. Indeed, research and inquiries into unsafe practice show that they are likely to be the first ones to raise the alarm about the quality of care. Yet the views, observations and reports of patients are currently an underused resource in safety and quality improvement.

  • Measure the person-centeredness of a service
    It is increasingly recognised that high-quality health care needs to be person-centred. How can we tell how person-centred a service is? A logical place to start is to see how a service or treatment is experienced from the patient’s perspective. Were they treated in a way that showed their values, preferences and outcomes were the first priority of the service? It is only patients who can tell whether efforts to make care more person-centred are effective.

Providing an opportunity for national consistency

Australia has not previously had a freely available tool that would allow patient experiences to be consistently assessed across the country.

Although there are many tools used in Australia to measure patient satisfaction or patient experience, tools vary between and within states and territories, and many have been developed overseas and have licence fees. AHPEQS is based on research with consumers of Australian health services and what they think is important.

There is currently no national-level assessment of recent patients’ experiences that can be used for quality improvement. Although the Australian Bureau of Statistics runs a patient experience survey nationally, health service organisations cannot use the results to improve care, because responses are not associated with particular organisations. The Australian Health Ministers’ Advisory Council recommended the development of a small set of non-proprietary patient experience questions relevant to the Australian context.

If AHPEQS is adopted by states and territories and health service organisations, it will provide a national dataset that shows how Australian healthcare services should improve care in ways that Australian healthcare consumers think is important.

Achieving National Safety and Quality Health Service (NSQHS) Standards

The Commission developed the NSQHS Standards to improve the quality of health services in Australia. The NSQHS Standards provide a nationally consistent statement of the level of care that consumers can expect from health service organisations. The Standards must be met for an organisation to receive accreditation.

The second edition of the Standards has been used by health services from the start of 2019. This edition incorporates a strong emphasis on the principles of person-centred care, consumer involvement and use of consumer feedback throughout all Standards. AHPEQS supports this emphasis and can help organisations to show that they are providing services which meet multiple actions throughout the new Standards.