How much feedback from patients on their healthcare is there out there, and where is it? How could we begin to use this feedback to improve healthcare services?

Aims

This study will review and present the existing evidence for how patient/customer feedback and comments, found on a variety of websites, can be used to improve healthcare services – including the lessons learned from other sectors, such as retail and travel, where the use of such feedback is commonplace.

It will identify gaps in our understanding of how feedback can be used to improve services and make recommendations for future research.

Why is this important?

More and more people are using the internet to get health information and to comment on their experiences with health services.

These comments can be on ‘official’ patient rating sites, such as NHS Choices or PatientOpinion, or on other sites, like blogs, forums (e.g. mumsnet.com) and social media.

Collecting, analysing and responding to online feedback are well-established practices in the retail, travel and hospitality industries. These practices are considered fundamental to their success.

Yet health services often fail to consider or respond to this type of ‘customer feedback’, despite a growing focus on making the NHS more patient-centred.

Why this is the case is currently unclear. It could be due to worries about how the comments have been expressed, if they represent the views of many people, and whether they’ve been edited before being published by the rating sites.

This research will explore ways the NHS can gather and use this feedback to improve NHS services, ultimately aiming to improve the experiences of the patients who use them.

Methods

This research needs to understand what types of feedback exist and how they could be used to improve healthcare provision and policy.

The research will use a ‘scoping review’ to do this. The scoping review will look at a wide range of sources to understand how healthcare feedback is currently being used. The review will also include scientific literature which has analysed online retail and travel industries, where such feedback is routinely used to shape and improve their products and services, to understand how feedback is being used successfully in other sectors.

Secondly, we need to understand how to use this feedback. Part of that lies in understanding how the different people involved – the ‘stakeholders’ – perceive this feedback.

A number of different stakeholders will be consulted for this. This will include patients and carers, people who work to collect feedback in healthcare, travel and retail, academics, clinicians, policymakers and commissioners.

This consultation will help to make sure that all the relevant sources of feedback and research are examined.

It will also ensure that a range of different views of the scoping study’s findings are considered, and help to highlight the most relevant findings for health service delivery, improvement and policy.

Once the scoping review and stakeholder work is completed, the next step is to analyse online patient feedback data. How this analysis is done will be based on the findings of the scoping review and consultation exercise.

How this could benefit patients

This research aims to benefit patients by finding the best ways to harness online feedback - helping healthcare providers, commissioners and policymakers to make positive changes in the NHS by putting the patient and their experiences at its heart.

It will also help us to understand how to make the best use of patient feedback in the NHS; to identify and address the queries and concerns of patients and professionals about online feedback; and to explore new avenues for research to further improve health services and patient care.

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