BMJ Qual Improv Report 6: doi:10.1136/bmjquality.u207103.w3042
  • BMJ Quality Improvement Programme

Knowledge is Power. A quality improvement project to increase patient understanding of their hospital stay

  1. Paul McArdle
  1. Plymouth Hospitals NHS Trust
  1. Correspondence to Eleanor Nicholson Thomas enthomas89{at}
  • Received 2 August 2016
  • Revision requested 18 August 2016
  • Revised 9 September 2016
  • Published 1 March 2017


Patients frequently leave hospital uninformed about the details of their hospital stay with studies showing that only 59.9% of patients are able to accurately state their diagnosis and ongoing management after discharge. 1 ,2 This places patients at a higher risk of complications. Educating patients by providing them with accurate and understandable information enables them to take greater control, potentially reducing readmission rates, and unplanned visits to secondary services whilst providing safer care and improving patient satisfaction. 3 ,4

We wished to investigate whether through a simple intervention, we could improve the understanding and retention of key pieces of clinical information in those patients recently admitted to hospital.

A leaflet was designed to trigger patients to ask questions about key aspects of their stay. This was then given to inpatients who were interviewed two weeks later using telephone follow up to assess their understanding of their hospital admission. Patients were asked about their diagnosis, new medications, likely complications, follow up arrangements and recommended points of contact in case of difficulty. Sequential modifications were made using PDSA cycles to maximise the impact and benefit of the process.

Baseline data revealed that only 77% of patients could describe their diagnosis and only 27% of patients knew details about their new medications. After the leaflet intervention these figures improved to 100% and 71% respectively.

Too often patients are unaware about what happens to them whilst in hospital and are discharged unsafely and dissatisfied as a result. A simple intervention such as a leaflet prompting patients to ask questions and take responsibility for their health can make a difference in potentially increasing patient understanding and thereby reducing risk.

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