The state of health services partnering with consumers: evidence from an online survey of Australian health services Academic Article uri icon


  • BACKGROUND:Involving consumers in producing health services is mandated in many countries. Evidence indicates consumer partnerships lead to improved service design, quality and innovation. Involving participants from minority groups is crucial because poor understanding of distinctive needs affects individuals' service experiences and outcomes. Few studies consider service compliance with consumer partnering requirements or inclusion of minority group participants. METHODS:An online survey structured by domains of the Australian National Safety and Quality in Health Service Standards (NSQHS, 2013), was conducted. Questions covered consumer partnering in service planning, management and evaluation plus patient care design and inclusion of consumers from minority groups. Approximately 1200 Australian hospital and day surgery services were identified and 447 individual email addresses were identified for staff leading consumer partnerships. Quantitative data were analysed using SPSS. Qualitative responses, managed in NVivo, were analysed thematically. Frequencies were produced to indicate common activities and range of activities within question domains. RESULTS:Comprehensive responses were received from 115 services (25.7%), including metropolitan and non-metropolitan, private and public service settings. Most respondents (95.6%) "partnered with consumers to develop or provide feedback on patient information". Regarding inclusion of participants from minority groups, respondents were least likely to specifically include those from socially disadvantaged backgrounds (23.6%). Public health services were more likely than private services to engage with consumers. CONCLUSIONS:The survey is the first to include responses about consumer partnering from across Australia. While many respondents partner with consumers, it is clear that more easily-organised activity such as involvement in existing committees or commenting on patient information occurs more commonly than involvement in strategy or governance. This raises questions over whether strategic-level involvement is too difficult or unrealistic; or whether services simply lack tools. Minority views may be missed where there is a lack of specific action to include diversity. Future work might address why services choose the activities we found and probe emerging opportunities, such as using social media or online engagement.

publication date

  • 2018