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Introducing the INQUIRE project

The INQUIRE project was a multi method study aiming to understand how to improve NHS quality using internet ratings and experiences.

With people ever more able and willing to review products and services online, it is important for the NHS to understand whether and how to harness feedback shared by patients on the internet alongside existing sources of patient experience data. The INQUIRE project provided the evidence needed to help the NHS make best use of online patient feedback for improving health care quality and supporting patient-centred services.

The INQUIRE project had four main objectives:

  1. To identify the current practice, state of the art, and future challenges, for online patient feedback, and to determine the implications for the NHS
    To do this, we reviewed existing literature on online feedback and spoke to the experts. These included representatives from patient feedback companies, policymakers, regulators of health services, senior clinicians working in patient experience, patients who had read or written feedback and patient experience managers. We found out what really mattered to these people and used their views to guide our literature review.
  2. To understand what online feedback from patients represents, who is excluded, and with what consequences
    To explore these questions, we carried out a face-to-face national questionnaire survey of 2,036 members of the public from across the UK to find out about the kinds of people who are (or are not) reading and writing online feedback about healthcare. We investigated how and why people choose to provide this kind of feedback. We also carried out 37 qualitative interviews with people who had read others’ healthcare feedback and/or had written their own. This gave us an in-depth insight into patients’ motivations for engaging with online feedback, as well as how they expected healthcare providers to use it. Quotes and video clips from these interviews are incorporated throughout this resource.
  3. To understand the potential barriers and facilitators to the use of online feedback by NHS staff and organisations and the organisational capacity required to combine, interpret and act upon patient experience data
    To explore these areas we carried out self-completed online questionnaires with 1,001 UK doctors and 749 nurses and midwives. We ran a focus group with five allied health professionals. We also conducted in-depth ethnographic case studies over a period of 6–10 weeks, at four NHS trusts. Across the four trusts, we also interviewed 60 people working in patient experience, medical leadership, communications, corporate management, quality improvement and performance roles. This enabled us to investigate the knowledge, current practice, attitudes and experiences of UK health professionals to online feedback.
  4. To develop this resource so that NHS organisations have the evidence and information needed to make the best use of online feedback for improving healthcare delivery
    This resource is intended to help healthcare organisations adopt appropriate use of online patient feedback, in combination with other patient experience data.

Research shaped by patients and the public

We wanted to give healthcare organisations the best understanding of how to use online feedback to improve services. We knew that to do this, we had to understand what matters most to those who are actually using the services. So, it was very important to us to engage with these people. Everything we did was shaped by the input of patients and the public including involving them in the development of this toolkit from the very beginning.

We collaborated with patients and the public across the whole research process and we drew on their knowledge and experiences to make sure our research questions and priorities captured what was important.

Find out more about the INQUIRE study