“What we want”: chronically ill adolescents’ preferences and priorities for improving health care
AnneLoes van Staa1,2, Susan Jedeloo1, Heleen van der Stege1, On Your Own Feet Research Group1,3
1Expertise Center Transitions of Care, Rotterdam University, 2Institute of Health Policy and Management, Erasmus University Rotterdam, 3Department of Pediatrics, Sophia Children’s Hospital, Erasmus MC University Medical Center, Rotterdam, The Netherlands
Background: As important users of health care, adolescents with chronic conditions deserve to be consulted about their experiences and expectations. This study aimed to explore chronically ill adolescents’ preferences regarding providers' qualities, and outpatient and inpatient care. Furthermore, suggestions for improvement of service delivery were collected.
Methods: This research was a sequential mixed methods study in adolescents aged 12–19 years with various chronic conditions treated in a university children’s hospital. Methods comprised 31 face-to-face interviews at home, a hospital-based peer research project in which nine adolescents interviewed 34 fellow patients, and a web-based questionnaire (n = 990). Emerging qualitative themes were transformed into questionnaire items.
Results: Having “a feeling of trust” and “voice and choice” in the hospital were central to these adolescents. Regarding providers’ qualities, “being an expert” and “being trustworthy and honest” were ranked highest, followed by "being caring and understanding”, "listening and showing respect", and “being focused on me”. Regarding outpatient consultations, preferences were ranked as follows: “answering all questions”; “attending to my and my parents’ needs”; and “clear communication”, while “limited waiting times” and “attractive outpatient surroundings” scored lowest. Regarding hospitalization, adolescents most preferred to “avoid pain and discomfort”, “keep in touch with home”, and “be entertained”, while “being hospitalized with peers” and “being heard” were least important. Regarding priorities for improvement, 52% of the respondents felt that more attention should be paid to older children, followed by enabling more contact with family and friends (45%), shorter waiting times (43%), and more activities to meet fellow patients (35%).
Conclusion: Adolescents prefer technically competent providers, who are honest and trustworthy, and attend to their needs. As they gradually grow out of the pediatric environment, they desire staff attitudes to become less childish and more age-appropriate, and welcome being treated as an equal partner in care. Health care professionals should inquire into preferences and adjust their communication style accordingly.
Keywords: chronic illness, patient participation, mixed methods research, hospital care