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Understanding and using health experiences (Book review)

‘Understanding and using health experiences’, edited by Sue Ziebland, Angela Coulter, Joseph D. Calabrese, Louise Locock. Pp x+169. Price £29.99. Oxford: Oxford University Press; 2013. ISBN 978 0 19 966537 2

By Janice Davies

Finding out what is really important to patients

‘Understanding and using health experiences’, edited by Sue Ziebland, Angela Coulter, Joseph D. Calabrese, Louise Locock. Pp x+169. Price £29.99. Oxford: Oxford University Press; 2013. ISBN 978 0 19 966537 2

This book examines a broad range of different sources and techniques for gathering and analysing the health experiences of patients. The introduction explains the context — that healthcare draws on different types of knowledge.

Clinical knowledge is combined with scientific knowledge and epidemiological knowledge, but a fourth type of knowledge is how people experience health, illness, treatment and the delivery of care. This type of knowledge has often been overlooked in the past, but is essential in order to improve the quality of care provided. Careful observation, measurement, recording, interpretation and analysis of patients’ experiences can help to identify what works well in healthcare and what needs to change.  

Each chapter focuses on one particular method of collecting the data. This could be the gathering of qualitative data by using interviews, focus groups or story-telling, or it could be obtaining quantitative data, for example, by using surveys or questionnaires. Chapters explore the strengths and limitations of different approaches, and assess what each method can contribute to improving patients’ experience of illness, and the way that health services are delivered. Ethnic, hard-to-reach and seldom-heard groups are not forgotten.

There is also a chapter on using secondary sources of data on health experiences (eg, the internet). Blogs, forums, chat rooms are useful resources for finding out what is important to patients.

The book is aimed at healthcare practitioners, postgraduate students, and people working in health and social policy, public sector management and research. But anyone who wants to understand how to hear the voice of patients would find this book informative. Healthcare practitioners considering obtaining patient back (eg, on service design or development) may not have appreciated the range of possibilities and I would recommend this book as a starting point.

Janice Davies is a primary care pharmacist at Lancashire Commissioning Support Unit and clinical tutor at the University of Central Lancashire.

Citation: Electronicjuice DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2013.11126311

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