Patients to be asked opinions in the first poll of its kind
Several thousand public hospital patients will be asked about their views on waiting times, staff attitudes and even the quality of food on the wards in the first Hospital Authority-wide patient-satisfaction survey early next year.
The authority set up a special taskforce on the initiative in December. Later this year it will invite agencies to tender for the right to develop the survey, based on international protocols.
The move aims to bring the authority in line with World Health Organisation recommendations on patient care.
A large survey involving at least several thousand patients will be carried out every three years, and smaller thematic surveys will be done regularly on specific subjects.
At present, individual hospitals conduct their own surveys in areas such as treatment outcomes, information and explanation, staff attitudes, visiting hours and waiting times.
The Hospital Authority's director of quality and safety, Leung Pak-yin, said it now received most of its feedback from patients from their complaints. The authority received 2,400 patient complaints last year.
'We want a very broad-based survey to know how patients feel about various areas,' he said. 'Their responses will help us to identify areas for improvement.'
Dr Leung said frontline staff were worried that introducing the satisfaction survey would lift patients' expectations and there would be a bigger gap between their expectations and reality. 'We understand that some frontline staff may feel pressure, but Hong Kong public hospitals have to get in line with others. Similar surveys are being done at hospitals in many countries such as the United Kingdom, United States and Australia.'
Because of sensitivities over patients' levels of satisfaction towards different hospitals and departments, the authority plans to release survey results to the public 'incrementally'.
But Public Doctors' Association president Duncan Ho Hung-kwong said the survey was only a cosmetic move.
'The authority is well aware of its problems, such as long working hours for doctors and poor quality of services,' he said. 'We can only afford five minutes on patients. We have spoken out on that already but nothing has been done.
'There is no need to spend so much money on surveys for the authority to know what is going on.'
British hospitals are required to commission local surveys each year and submit the results to the health authorities for performance assessments.
In Australia, the state government in Victoria has commissioned a research agency to monitor patient feedback from 111 public hospitals each year since 2000. In the state of Queensland, a research agency has been commissioned to monitor patient feedback from its 74 public hospitals since 2001.