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Introducing online feedback

In the healthcare sector, online feedback is taking place through dedicated patient feedback sites, blogs and forums, as well as social media outlets such as Google reviews and Facebook. In the UK, two of the more popular websites for reading and writing feedback are and CareOpinion.

More and more people are using online patient feedback sites to read and write about health experiences. Our survey of the UK public (2,036 participants) found that in 2017, about one in 12 people (8 per cent) who use the internet had written online feedback about some aspect of healthcare in the past year, and about two in five (42 per cent) had read online feedback.

So, for many, engaging in online patient feedback is now a mainstream activity. We also know from other research that reading and writing online feedback about healthcare is becoming more popular in other countries, including Germany and the United States. This snapshot of user activity shows that many people can, and do, use the internet to comment on their experiences of healthcare.

Although the growing popularity of online patient feedback is plain to see, it has not been harnessed as routinely or effectively as it has in other industries, such as retail, travel and hospitality.

If we look at the wider landscape of online feedback, other sectors have done a better job of learning how to harness this user-generated content. In these sectors, while not everyone writes ratings and reviews, many people read them, and they definitely influence consumer behaviour.

Think about how the popular site TripAdvisor has changed the way we make decisions about where to spend our time and money. It is now very likely that people will select and book a hotel or restaurant after looking at reviews first. TripAdvisor enables users to view real-life photos and descriptions posted by previous consumers that are often much more helpful than the glossy marketing shown in brochures and advertisements.

This is also happening on retail sites such as Amazon and eBay, where consumer ratings and reviews instantly shape our user experience. Amazon lets us know which reviews are from ‘verified purchasers’ and this carries more weight. The organisations look at the reviews to see what they are doing right or wrong, and will often choose to respond and tell the consumer what improvements they have made.

In this way, online feedback is not just about providing a convenient route for consumer feedback, but about making sure everyone can read both the feedback and response. This provides transparent accountability. In making their response visible, these organisations are seen to be taking notice – an important aspect of reputation management. Not only do they want to gather and act on feedback: they also want to be seen as a responsive, reputable organisation.

One key lesson that healthcare can learn from current practice in other industries is the importance of visibility and accountability. We believe that responding to online patient feedback is central to our healthcare organisations becoming more patient centred, open and accountable.