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Patient experience data as enacted: Sociomaterial perspectives and ‘singular-multiples’ in health care quality improvement research

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Sara Donetto, Amit Desai, Giulia Zoccatelli, Davina Allen, Sally Brearley, Anne Marie Rafferty, Glenn Robert

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1032-1050
Number of pages19
JournalSociology of Health and Illness
Issue number4
Accepted/In press12 Mar 2021
PublishedMay 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information: This paper draws upon independent research funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR). The views and opinions expressed by authors in this publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the NHS, the NIHR, NETSCC, the HS&DR programme or the Department of Health and Social Care. If there are verbatim quotations included in this publication the views and opinions expressed by the interviewees are those of the interviewees and do not necessarily reflect those of the authors, those of the NHS, the NIHR, NETSCC, the HS&DR programme or the Department of Health and Social Care. 1 Publisher Copyright: © 2021 The Authors. Sociology of Health & Illness published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of Foundation for SHIL (SHIL). Copyright: Copyright 2021 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.

King's Authors


Over the last three decades, sociomaterial approaches to the study of health care practices have made an important contribution to the sociology of health care. Significant attention has been paid to the role of technology and artefacts in health care and the operation of actor-networks but less space has been given to questions of ontological multiplicity in health care practices. In this paper, we draw upon our study of patient experience data in five acute hospitals in England to illustrate how treating patient experience data as ‘singular-multiples’ can enable useful insights into patient experience data work in health care organisations. Our data was generated during 12 months of fieldwork at five participating hospitals and included organisational documents, field notes, informal and formal interviews with frontline and managerial staff and patient representatives at the study sites. We use the examples of the Friends and Family Test (FFT) and the National Cancer Patient Experience Survey (NCPES) in England to consider the multiple nature of data as it is enacted in practice and the work data does when coordinated as an entity in the singular. We argue that, and discuss how, the sociomaterial insights we discuss here are relevant to health care quality and improvement research and practice.

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