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1.  Patients' experiences of the quality of long-term care among the elderly: comparing scores over time 
Every two years, long-term care organizations for the elderly are obliged to evaluate and publish the experiences of residents, representatives of psychogeriatric patients, and/or assisted-living clients with regard to quality of care. Our hypotheses are that publication of this quality information leads to improved performance, and that organizations with substandard performance will improve more than those whose performance is relatively good.
The analyses included organizational units that measured experiences twice between 2007 (t0) and 2009 (t1). Experiences with quality of care were measured with Consumer Quality Index (CQI) questionnaires. Besides descriptive analyses (i.e. mean, 5th and 95th percentile, and 90% central range) of the 19 CQI indicators and change scores of these indicators were calculated. Differences across five performance groups (ranging from 'worst' to 'best') were tested using an ANOVA test and effect sizes were measured with omega squared (ω2).
At t0 experiences of residents, representatives, and assisted-living clients were positive on all indicators. Nevertheless, most CQI indicators had improved scores (up to 0.37 change score) at t1. Only three indicators showed a minor decline (up to -0.08 change score). Change scores varied between indicators and questionnaires, e.g. they were more profound for the face-to-face interview questionnaire for residents in nursing homes than for the other two mail questionnaires (0.15 vs. 0.05 and 0.04, respectively), possibly due to more variation between nursing homes on the first measurement, perhaps indicating more potential for improvement. A negative relationship was found between prior performance and change, particularly with respect to the experiences of residents (ω2 = 0.16) and assisted-living clients (ω2 = 0.15). However, the relation between prior performance and improvement could also be demonstrated with respect to the experiences reported by representatives of psychogeriatric patients and by assisted-living clients. For representatives of psychogeriatric patients, the performance groups 1 and 2 ([much] below average) improved significantly more than the other three groups (ω2 = 0.05).
Both hypotheses were confirmed: almost all indicator scores improved over time and long-term care organizations for the elderly with substandard performance improved more than those with a performance which was already relatively good.
PMCID: PMC3305532  PMID: 22293109
2.  A Comparison of a Postal Survey and Mixed-Mode Survey Using a Questionnaire on Patients’ Experiences With Breast Care 
The Internet is increasingly considered to be an efficient medium for assessing the quality of health care seen from the patients’ perspective. Potential benefits of Internet surveys such as time efficiency, reduced effort, and lower costs should be balanced against potential weaknesses such as low response rates and accessibility for only a subset of potential participants. Combining an Internet questionnaire with a traditional paper follow-up questionnaire (mixed-mode survey) can possibly compensate for these weaknesses and provide an alternative to a postal survey.
To examine whether there are differences between a mixed-mode survey and a postal survey in terms of respondent characteristics, response rate and time, quality of data, costs, and global ratings of health care or health care providers (general practitioner, hospital care in the diagnostic phase, surgeon, nurses, radiotherapy, chemotherapy, and hospital care in general).
Differences between the two surveys were examined in a sample of breast care patients using the Consumer Quality Index Breast Care questionnaire. We selected 800 breast care patients from the reimbursement files of Dutch health insurance companies. We asked 400 patients to fill out the questionnaire online followed by a paper reminder (mixed-mode survey) and 400 patients, matched by age and gender, received the questionnaire by mail only (postal survey). Both groups received three reminders.
The respondents to the two surveys did not differ in age, gender, level of education, or self-reported physical and psychological health (all Ps > .05). In the postal survey, the questionnaires were returned 20 days earlier than in the mixed-mode survey (median 12 and 32 days, respectively; P < .001), whereas the response rate did not differ significantly (256/400, 64.0% versus 242/400, 60.5%, respectively; P = .30). The costs were lower for the mixed-mode survey (€2 per questionnaire). Moreover, there were fewer missing items (3.4% versus 4.4%, P = .002) and fewer invalid answers (3.2% versus 6.2%, P < .001) in the mixed-mode survey than in the postal survey. The answers of the two respondent groups on the global ratings did not differ. Within the mixed-mode survey, 52.9% (128/242) of the respondents filled out the questionnaire online. Respondents who filled out the questionnaire online were significantly younger (P < .001), were more often highly educated (P = .002), and reported better psychological health (P = .02) than respondents who filled out the paper questionnaire. Respondents to the paper questionnaire rated the nurses significantly more positively than respondents to the online questionnaire (score 9.2 versus 8.4, respectively; χ2 1 = 5.6).
Mixed-mode surveys are an alternative method to postal surveys that yield comparable response rates and groups of respondents, at lower costs. Moreover, quality of health care was not rated differently by respondents to the mixed-mode or postal survey. Researchers should consider using mixed-mode surveys instead of postal surveys, especially when investigating younger or more highly educated populations.
PMCID: PMC3222165  PMID: 21946048
Data collection; health care quality; consumer satisfaction; breast cancer; patient preferences; health care quality indicator
3.  Legal rights of client councils and their role in policy of long-term care organisations in the Netherlands 
Legislation demands the establishment of client councils in Dutch nursing homes and residential care facilities. The members of those councils are residents or their representatives. Client councils have the right to participate in the strategic management of long-term care facilities. More specifically, they need to be consulted regarding organisational issues and a right to consent on issues regarding daily living of residents, including CQ-index research. CQ-index research concerns a method that measures, analyses and report clients' experiences about the quality of care. Research questions were: 'Do client councils exercise their rights to be consulted and to give their consent?' and 'What is the role of client councils in the process of measuring clients' experiences with the CQ-index and what is their opinion about the CQ-index?'
Postal questionnaires were sent to members of 1,540 client councils of Dutch nursing homes and residential care facilities. The questionnaire focussed on background information and client councils' involvement in decision-making and strategic management.
The response rate was 34% (n = 524). Most councils consisted of seven members (range: 5 to 12 members). One out of four members participating in the client councils were clients themselves. Although councils have a legal right to be consulted for organisational issues like finance, vision, annual report, and accommodation, less than half the councils (31-46%) reported that they exercised this right. The legal right to consent was perceived by 18 to 36% of the councils regarding client care issues like food and drink, complaints registration, respectful treatment, and activities. For CQ-index research, only 18% of the client councils perceived a right to consent. Their rights to choose an approved contractor -who performs CQ-index research- and indicating improvement priorities, were hardly used.
Client councils play a rather passive role in determining the policy on quality of long-term care. Therefore, specific attention and actions are needed to create a more proactive attitude in councils towards exercising their rights, which are already supported by legislation.
PMCID: PMC3181203  PMID: 21910899
Consumer participation; empowerment; patients' rights; long-term care

Results 1-3 (3)