What's going well: a qualitative analysis of positive patient and family feedback in the context of the diagnostic process

Diagnosis (Berl). 2023 Dec 20;11(1):63-72. doi: 10.1515/dx-2023-0075. eCollection 2024 Feb 1.


Objectives: Accurate and timely diagnosis relies on close collaboration between patients/families and clinicians. Just as patients have unique insights into diagnostic breakdowns, positive patient feedback may also generate broader perspectives on what constitutes a "good" diagnostic process (DxP).

Methods: We evaluated patient/family feedback on "what's going well" as part of an online pre-visit survey designed to engage patients/families in the DxP. Patients/families living with chronic conditions with visits in three urban pediatric subspecialty clinics (site 1) and one rural adult primary care clinic (site 2) were invited to complete the survey between December 2020 and March 2022. We adapted the Healthcare Complaints Analysis Tool (HCAT) to conduct a qualitative analysis on a subset of patient/family responses with ≥20 words.

Results: In total, 7,075 surveys were completed before 18,129 visits (39 %) at site 1, and 460 surveys were completed prior to 706 (65 %) visits at site 2. Of all participants, 1,578 volunteered positive feedback, ranging from 1-79 words. Qualitative analysis of 272 comments with ≥20 words described: Relationships (60 %), Clinical Care (36 %), and Environment (4 %). Compared to primary care, subspecialty comments showed the same overall rankings. Within Relationships, patients/families most commonly noted: thorough and competent attention (46 %), clear communication and listening (41 %) and emotional support and human connection (39 %). Within Clinical Care, patients highlighted: timeliness (31 %), effective clinical management (30 %), and coordination of care (25 %).

Conclusions: Patients/families valued relationships with clinicians above all else in the DxP, emphasizing the importance of supporting clinicians to nurture effective relationships and relationship-centered care in the DxP.

Keywords: diagnostic safety; patient engagement; relationship-centered care.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Ambulatory Care Facilities
  • Child
  • Communication
  • Delivery of Health Care*
  • Feedback
  • Humans
  • Patients*