What makes Patient Opinion so different, really?


As I’ve noted before, there are a lot of patient feedback sites and systems around now. Still plenty of traditional “suggestion box” type approaches, surveys, interviews, and a fair few online systems too.

So many, in fact, that a few months back Mark Gamsu posted a thoughtful blog on the confusing world of NHS patient feedback.

This set me thinking about why Patient Opinion is different. And more specifically, if I were a patient choosing between different online feedback sites (perhaps I’ve found NHS Choices, my local healthwatch website, and Patient Opinion), which would I choose and why? What is the essence of the difference?

Of course, there are many many small differences. But I think the essence of it comes down to this: we aim to share your story with as many people as possible who can learn from it, and use it to make a difference.

Here’s a picture of how Patient Opinion works, to show you what I mean. (Apologies: this is England-centric. The organisations are different in other UK health systems, but the principle is the same.)

Of course, we can only notify those organisations which have registered. And staff can choose which kinds of story they want to be alerted to.

I think this illustrates our approach quite well:

  • you shouldn’t have to tell your story more than once
  • you shouldn’t have to understand how the NHS is organised (does anyone?)
  • your story should be shared across the local health economy
  • your story should be available to people improving healthcare, whether locally, regionally or nationally
  • your story should help future healthcare professionals too

I’m not aware of any other feedback system or website which shares your story in this way. I don’t even think there’s another system where you can share a story about more than one single provider (so you’d have to tell your story separately to each provider involved).

But we go further. We also show you who read your story.

Take this story about end of life care, for example. Who read it?

All three providers, plus the local healthwatch and the local MP. And if you want, you can even follow the link to see who we notified.

Again, I’m not aware of any other feedback system or website which does this.

Because we share stories as widely as we can, the stories on Patient Opinion are read a lot. At the last count, your stories have been read in all over 85 million times.

Of course, our hope is that the more widely a story is read, the more impact it can create, and the more learning and change can result.

But it turns out that, in reality, it’s a bit more complicated than that. Just sharing a story widely isn’t enough for it to be acted on. And that’s the topic of my next blog post.

This blog was originally posted here.