The patient experience is a crucial part of the measurement of service quality. However, instruments to evaluate experiential quality in the community mental health care of older adults are lacking. Before designing a new instrument, clarity is needed about what is to be measured, and how care experiences are articulated by patients. The study aimed to construct a framework to describe older patients’ experience of community mental health and social care.

Concept mapping blends structured qualitative data collection with quantitative analysis in a mixed method approach. Five activities were undertaken. Patients first identified sentences describing the care experience; a card-sort exercise then grouped these thematically; multidimensional analysis portrayed these data in a map of clusters; interpretation was by patient advisers; finally a new questionnaire was designed. The research involved 22 older people with mental health problems and 29 mental health practitioners, from one region of England.

Sixty-seven statements were identified that described the care experience. Analysis of card sort data revealed seven clusters, which were interpreted by patient advisers to the study as: personal qualities and relationships; communication problems; feeling powerless; in-and-out care; bureaucracy; focus on life, not just mental health; and continuity of care. These themes and the component statements were used as a foundation for later work, developing a new measure of the care experience in mental health services for older people.

Concept mapping has many strengths as an empirical and participant-driven means for underpinning new measurement instruments. A group of older people identified 67 candidate statements that could act as questionnaire items grouped within seven themes. Future research will establish the psychometric properties of the new measure.

Mark Wilberforce, Eric Batten, David Challis, Linda Davies, Michael P. Kelly and Chris Roberts
BMC Health Services Research, 2018 18:461