Trial 4

Enhancing the patient voice

Trial 4

Can providing patients with a simple notepad enhance their ability to engage with their healthcare team and ask questions about their care?

Research has found that hospital patients who actively engage in their healthcare often have better health outcomes and leave the hospital system feeling more satisfied.

In practice, while many patients intend to engage with their doctor, nurse or other members of their healthcare team, they hesitate to ask questions or speak up due to perceived constraints around clinicians’ time and fears of hierarchy.

Patients may also forget questions they want to ask or perceive that it is unacceptable to ask.

The aim of this trial was to explore the effectiveness of providing patients with a co-designed notepad to both provide an opportunity and prompt them to ask questions.

What did the literature tell us?

The first phase of this trial involved a Facilitated Dialogue with key stakeholders.

To ensure that participants had a good understanding of the issue – and what others around the world had done to address it – they were briefed with the results of a Rapid Evidence and Practice review (below).

Briefing document PDF

What's likely to fix the problem?

From the Facilitated Forum Dialogue, participants drew the following conclusions on how to best approach the issue of patient-clinician communication in enhancing the patient voice in healthcare.

Dialogue summary PDF

What did we do?

We conducted a feasibility study on the impact of providing a bedside ‘Patient Power’ notepad to encourage patients to ask questions in the post-operative setting.

During the three-month trial period, patients undergoing hip or knee replacements at Victoria’s Peninsula Health were given a co-designed notepad.

The durable notepads were placed within arm’s reach of the bed and were designed to help patients identify relevant questions through the inclusion of a question prompt sheet.

The notepad also allowed patients to record questions in private, removing the pressure to remember questions on the spot during ward rounds.

Staff regularly checked the notepads to ensure that questions were being answered.

Further information can be found in the Trial Registration page on the Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry here.

What did we find?

Overall, the notepad was perceived by both patients and staff to be a useful way of encouraging patients to ask more questions.

Additional reported benefits included creating a permissive environment and sending the message that patients are valued and that their voice is important.

This simple intervention, which is highly scalable, also has the potential to notify staff of safety and care issues they otherwise may have missed.

Media and other information

Full trial infographic PDF