71point4 > Projects > Health > Measuring perceptions of public healthcare

Measuring perceptions of public healthcare

Western Cape Department of Health


Focus groups, in-depth interviews

Qualitative research and analysis


The Western Cape Departments of Health’s 2030 plan highlights patient-centred care. Core to that is listening to the voice of the patient. To that end, the Department commissioned 71point4 to bring some of those voices to the fore, exploring the patient experience and identifying key issues that frame perceptions of the public healthcare system in the Western Cape. The study also aimed to unpack how perceptions are formed and how the public sector could respond from a strategic communications perspective, as well as through more operationally focused interventions.


The study was an initial exploration into the topic and comprised three focus group discussions with targeted consumer groups, in-depth interviews with three health committees, volunteer groups which operate between the patient and the provider at local clinics, and two journalists who actively follow and report on the public healthcare sector.

Focus groups were used to help identify ‘top of mind’ perceptions of public healthcare facilities and services, as well as deeper, more thoughtful, associations with the sector, Focus group participants included members of the public that receive regular chronic care at public facilities and who could comment on the services received at primary healthcare clinics. Another group comprised of individuals who had received emergency care at a public hospital in the previous 12 months, with the third group comprising of individuals who were, at the time, not utilising public healthcare facilities, but whose income put them on the cusp of public and private healthcare. The latter group was initially intended to provide insight into how perceptions are formed in the absence of direct personal experience, however, it turned out most of these individuals had, had previous experiences with public healthcare either personally or through an immediate family member. Key themes between and within the focus groups were identified, with the implications considered from both a communications and operations perspective.

The in-depth interviews with local healthcare committees and journalists were conducted to help frame the contextual issues highlighted in the focus groups and test the plausibility of communication solutions.


Measuring overall perceptions of public healthcare proved to be inherently complex and thus it is recognised that this study serves as an initial exploration into this topic. However, it was found that the qualitative research methodologies employed captured the complexity of public perceptions better than quantitative surveys previously used.

Furthermore, key insights on the drivers of positive and negative perceptions were identified for patients, health committees and journalists. Waiting times, the physical environment of the facility, staff attitudes and the quality of the medical treatment were some of the most important aspects impacting on a patient’s perception of quality of care.

Project resources

As yet, nothing in the public domain.