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Patient experience data as enacted: sociomaterial perspectives and ‘singular-multiples’ in healthcare quality improvement research

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages32
JournalSociology of Health and Illness
Early online date9 Apr 2021
Accepted/In press12 Mar 2021
E-pub ahead of print9 Apr 2021


King's Authors


Over the last three decades, sociomaterial approaches to the study of healthcare practices have made an important contribution to the sociology of healthcare. Significant attention has been paid to the role of technology and artefacts in healthcare and the operation of actor-networks but less space has been given to questions of ontological multiplicity in healthcare 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 healthcare organisations. Our data was generated during 12 months of field work 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 & 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 healthcare quality and improvement research and practice.

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