Web-based Textual Analysis of Free-Text Patient Experience Comments from a Survey in Primary Care

Published in: JMIR Medical Informatics, v. 3, no. 2, e20, Apr.-June 2015, p. 1-12

Posted on RAND.org on May 18, 2015

by Inocencio Maramba, Antoinette Davey, Marc N. Elliott, Martin J. Roberts, Martin Roland, Finlay Brown, Jenni A. Burt, Olga Boiko, John Campbell

Read More

Access further information on this document at JMIR Medical Informatics

This article was published outside of RAND. The full text of the article can be found at the link above.

BACKGROUND: Open-ended questions eliciting free-text comments have been widely adopted in surveys of patient experience. Analysis of free text comments can provide deeper or new insight, identify areas for action, and initiate further investigation. Also, they may be a promising way to progress from documentation of patient experience to achieving quality improvement. The usual methods of analyzing free-text comments are known to be time and resource intensive. To efficiently deal with a large amount of free-text, new methods of rapidly summarizing and characterizing the text are being explored. OBJECTIVE: The aim of this study was to investigate the feasibility of using freely available Web-based text processing tools (text clouds, distinctive word extraction, key words in context) for extracting useful information from large amounts of free-text commentary about patient experience, as an alternative to more resource intensive analytic methods. METHODS: We collected free-text responses to a broad, open-ended question on patients' experience of primary care in a cross-sectional postal survey of patients recently consulting doctors in 25 English general practices. We encoded the responses to text files which were then uploaded to three Web-based textual processing tools. The tools we used were two text cloud creators: TagCrowd for unigrams, and Many Eyes for bigrams; and Voyant Tools, a Web-based reading tool that can extract distinctive words and perform Keyword in Context (KWIC) analysis. The association of patients' experience scores with the occurrence of certain words was tested with logistic regression analysis. KWIC analysis was also performed to gain insight into the use of a significant word. RESULTS: In total, 3426 free-text responses were received from 7721 patients (comment rate: 44.4%). The five most frequent words in the patients' comments were "doctor", "appointment", "surgery", "practice", and "time". The three most frequent two-word combinations were "reception staff", "excellent service", and "two weeks". The regression analysis showed that the occurrence of the word "excellent" in the comments was significantly associated with a better patient experience (OR=1.96, 95%CI=1.63-2.34), while "rude" was significantly associated with a worse experience (OR=0.53, 95%CI=0.46-0.60). The KWIC results revealed that 49 of the 78 (63%) occurrences of the word "rude" in the comments were related to receptionists and 17(22%) were related to doctors. CONCLUSIONS: Web-based text processing tools can extract useful information from free-text comments and the output may serve as a springboard for further investigation. Text clouds, distinctive words extraction and KWIC analysis show promise in quick evaluation of unstructured patient feedback. The results are easily understandable, but may require further probing such as KWIC analysis to establish the context. Future research should explore whether more sophisticated methods of textual analysis (eg, sentiment analysis, natural language processing) could add additional levels of understanding.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation External publication series. Many RAND studies are published in peer-reviewed scholarly journals, as chapters in commercial books, or as documents published by other organizations.

Our mission to help improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis is enabled through our core values of quality and objectivity and our unwavering commitment to the highest level of integrity and ethical behavior. To help ensure our research and analysis are rigorous, objective, and nonpartisan, we subject our research publications to a robust and exacting quality-assurance process; avoid both the appearance and reality of financial and other conflicts of interest through staff training, project screening, and a policy of mandatory disclosure; and pursue transparency in our research engagements through our commitment to the open publication of our research findings and recommendations, disclosure of the source of funding of published research, and policies to ensure intellectual independence. For more information, visit www.rand.org/about/principles.

The RAND Corporation is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.