Capturing the experience of the hospital-stay journey from admission to discharge using diaries completed by patients in their own words: A qualitative study

Craig S. Webster*, Tanisha Jowsey, Lucy M. Lu, Marcus A. Henning, Antonia Verstappen, Andy Wearn, Papaarangi M. Reid, Alan F. Merry, Jennifer M. Weller

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

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To capture and better understand patients' experience during their healthcare journey from hospital admission to discharge, and to identify patient suggestions for improvement. 


Prospective, exploratory, qualitative study. Patients were asked to complete an unstructured written diary expressed in their own words, recording negative and positive experiences or anything else they considered noteworthy. Participants and setting Patients undergoing vascular surgery in a metropolitan hospital. Primary outcome measures Complete diary transcripts underwent a general inductive thematic analysis, and opportunities to improve the experience of care were identified and collated. 


We recruited 113 patients in order to collect 80 completed diaries from 78 participants (a participant response rate of 69%), recording patients' experiences of their hospital-stay journey. Participating patients were a median (range) age of 69 (21-99) years and diaries contained a median (range) of 197 (26-1672) words each. Study participants with a tertiary education wrote more in their diaries than those without - a median (range) of 353.5 (48-1672) vs 163 (26-1599) words, respectively (Mann-Whitney U test, p=0.001). Three primary and eight secondary themes emerged from analysis of diary transcripts - primary themes being: (1) communication as central to care; (2) importance of feeling cared for and (3) environmental factors shaping experiences. In the great majority, participants reported positive experiences on the hospital ward. However, a set of 12 patient suggestions for improvement were identified, the majority of which could be addressed with little cost but result in substantial improvements in patient experience. Half of the 12 suggestions for improvement fell into primary theme 1, concerning opportunities to improve communication between healthcare providers and patients. 


Unstructured diaries completed in a patient's own words appear to be an effective and simple approach to capture the hospital-stay experience from the patient's own perspective, and to identify opportunities for improvement.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere027258
JournalBMJ Open
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2019
Externally publishedYes


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