Joining together in a unique project “VoiCes”, four children’s hospitals – Children’s University Hospital in Latvia, Meyer Children’s Hospital in Italy, Helsinki University Hospital in Finland, Erasmus MC Sophia Children’s Hospital in collaboration with the Sant’Anna School in Italy, the UNICEF organization and the European Children’s Hospital Organization, introduce a specially created digital tool for collecting the views of children and adolescents in hospitals to receive feedback on services received and children’s experiences during hospitalization. The obtained results will be analyzed and used to promote the most positive experience of children and adolescents in health institutions both locally and internationally.

High-quality healthcare that takes into account the views of children as patients, as well as equality and non-discrimination, is one of the seven areas of children’s rights, defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) standards for the rights of patients in children’s hospitals, at the same time, Article 12 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child provides that children and adolescents must be heard in all matters affecting them. In order to ensure children’s awareness and participation in healthcare decision-making process, as well as to promote the involvement of children in the evaluation and improvement of healthcare in children’s hospitals, within the project “VoiCes” an electronic patient experience survey and data platform has been developed which is now used to measure children’s experience in the hospital.

The target group of the project “VoiCEs” is represented by children aged 0 to 17, and the survey is adapted to different age groups. For example, for children who cannot read yet, the parent has to fill in the questionnaire, while older children and adolescents are able to do it themselves. The survey is conducted after the patient is discharged from the hospital.

As part of the project, hospital patients – children and young people, as well as their parents – were interviewed to find out topics relevant to children and include them in the survey questions. Summarizing the results of the interviews and involving around 100 medical and support specialists, representatives and psychologists of patient and family organizations, blocks of the following five topics were created, which are asked to the respondents in the form of questions within the survey: understandable and clear communication; empathetic, polite, friendly and respectful attitude; involving children and young people in the decision-making process on matters regarding their treatment; ward stay and amenities; discharge from the hospital, or how safe the child felt when going home and whether all information about the further treatment process at home is understood.

“Not only the VoiCEs questionnaire will consent to children and adolescents to share their experience through a tool that is appropriate to their age, but for the first time their point of view will be collected simultaneously in several European countries. This offers the opportunity to compare paediatric patient-reported indicators, share improvement strategies and learn from good practices, in order to enhance the quality of child-friendly care in a child-driven way”, says Sabina De Rosis, assistant professor at Sant’Anna School and coordinator of the VoiCEs project.

“One of the pillars of UNICEF’s work is that of guaranteeing children’s active participation in all aspects of their lives. The VoiCEs project focuses on listening to them when they are particularly vulnerable in a hospital setting. Being able to collect these experiences directly from them, will be an important contribution to the drive to improve the global care of children and adolescents, and not just focus on the health-related outcomes”, says Carmela Pace, president of UNICEF Italy.

The European Children’s Hospital Organization, the Italian Association of Pediatric Hospitals and the Picker Institute in Oxford are also involved in the project and will support the communication of the project’s results at European and local level.

During admission to the Children’s Hospital, the patient and his parents are informed that an electronic questionnaire will be sent to their e-mail or telephone number within 24 hours of discharge from the hospital. It can be opened and filled in using a computer, tablet or smartphone. It is possible to start filling out the questionnaire, save it during the process and come back later to resume filling it out, and it will be available for 30 days.  The results are available to hospital staff on a daily basis, making it possible to set both relevant short-term goals and necessary long-term improvements.

The project is implemented with the support of the European Commission.

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The VoiCEs Project is co-funded by the European Union’s Rights, Equality and Citizenship Programme (2014-2020) (REC-RCHI-PROF-AG-2020

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