A patient diary is a way to gather qualitative information about people's experience of using health (and care) services in order to help shape service improvements.
- Time to do: The length of time that the diary runs for will depend on the frequency with which the service user is in touch with the services and their individual circumstances.
- Staff: Staff to recruit patients to participate and to collate information from each diary.
- Cost: £
- Equipment: depends on how you want people to record their diaries. For photos, audio and video you may need to supply participants with devices
- at a distance
How to do it
- Give participants a diary to record their experience of using services. The diaries are anonymous.
- Collate diary material into a report, focusing on the issues that emerge from users' experiences.
- Other methods - such as comment cards and focus groups - can be used to verify the issues raised in the diaries with everyone who uses a service or is affected by an issue.
- Review learning regularly.
Diaries can be as simple as a plain notebook or sheets of paper with question prompts. Creative methods can make for more engaging feedback, including photographs, audio recordings or short videos.
- A flexible method which can be adapted for use by people with disabilities or literacy problems.
- Particularly useful where the people completing the diaries are in contact with several services or staff, as it can show how the services interact from a service user's point of view.
- Allows people to give a great deal of information, including information on sensitive matters, in a way that they can control.
- People completing the diaries are usually volunteers from the relevant population of service users. This gives a strong commitment to completing the diaries.
- The representativeness of the findings will depend on the quality of the recruitment process.
- Relies on participants completing the diary over a period of time.
- Phillips, C. (2006) "Use of patient diaries in critical care" Nursing Standard v26 (11), p35-43