Patient Opinion has announced a “mash-up” with NHS Choices comments released onto a Cabinet Office website to promote new uses of government information.
The independent website, which was founded by a Sheffield GP and is funded by subscriptions from trusts, regulators and others, has taken an NHS Choices data feed from a site run by the Cabinet Office’s Power of Information Taskforce and combined it with its own service.
This means that patients and carers can find comments about hospital care posted on either Patient Opinion or NHS Choices, using Patient’s Opinion’s site. And subscribers can generate reports using feedback from both sites.
Comments that were made through NHS Choices are identified with a logo, since identifying the source of information is one of the conditions of using the feeds provided.
James Munro, Patient Opinion’s director of informatics and research, told E-Health-Insider that the Cabinet Office site is “tapping into a new mood in government of ‘let’s share’.”
"There is a growing recognition that no organisation, including the state, can do everything and a willingness to say ‘let’s see what happens if we put information out there’,” he said. “More and more departments seem to understand that they need to let go and see what people can do.”
He added there was no evidence that NHS Choices was unhappy with the development and said he would be happy to see the government site take a feed from Patient Opinion in the future. “I see feedback as a public resource,” he said. “It needs to be used.”
Patient Opinion initially set up in Yorkshire and only covered the whole of England in June last year. It still receives fewer comments about services in London and the South East; where NHS Choices seems to have a stronger presence.
“It was our subscribers who said we like Patient Opinion, but we are also seeing information on NHS Choices, so we now have to go to two places,” said Munro. “We thought that should not be necessary, given the way the web works.
“The mash-up is useful for users and for subscribers, because they get information about all the comments that are being made in one place.
“What we are really interested in is getting information and turning it into something of real benefit to the NHS and its users. We felt that NHS Choices could do more with the information it had.
“Our subscribers include trusts, patient groups interested in particular conditions and MPs who want to know what is happening in their constituencies; people who can really use information to make a difference.”
The Power of Information Taskforce is running a competition to encourage people to submit ideas for new services using government data. It has persuaded a number of government departments to release their data for mash-ups and new services.
Munro said Patient Opinion was looking at some of the other feeds that had become available. “We are definitely looking at doing more, because there are some very interesting things on there,” he said.
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Another differenceUnknown 320 weeks ago
IWGC has a long list of doctors, many of whom having no reviews i.e. name not entered by someone making comments.
The list is not taken from the GMC - I could not find doctors I know to be registered with the GMC.
Where is the list of names obtained?
I tried to find individual doctors on Patient Opinion but couldn't: not that that would help with the 1st and 3rd comments if unsubstantiated accusations can never be removed from the record precisely because, never having been investigated, they have never been refuted!
Thanks for your openness in the previous postUnknown 320 weeks ago
Striking the right balance is indeed a challenge, however the attitude displayed in the previous post and the fact that Patient Opinion is developing a track record and appears to be seeking to do 'the right thing' is very encouraging and seems a little at odds with the IWGC approach. Are these two services competing for the same audience? If so which will win out, the one that errs on the side of caution - or the one that errs towards sensationalism.
What is the business model for these services?
Response from Patient OpinionUnknown 320 weeks ago
I'm one of the team running Patient Opinion. Mary Hawking raises some important points about anonymity and authenticity in her comment above, and as you can imagine there is a balance here which we are keen to get right.
Currently over half the feedback we receive is positive. A small number of postings are strongly critical of services, and we will verify these by email with the author before publication. Where a member of staff is named critically in a posting we will edit the posting before publication to avoid the risk of defamation. For example, if a patient writes: "Dr Smith was rude and arrogant" we will edit to "The doctor I saw was rude and arrogant".
Very rarely we receive a posting which makes a serious allegation about a named professional. Our legal advice is that we can neither publish nor forward such a posting, whether to the Halthcare Commission or anywhere else, so we do not do so. We do, however, email the author of the posting to explain this and encourage them to raise the issue formally with the local service if they wish to do so.
We feel this strikes a workable balance between ease of use for the patient, truthfulness for the public and fairness to staff, and is ethical and legal. We work with 60 NHS organisations and to date (touch wood) those organisations and their staff have been generally supportive of this approach.
But like everyone we are still learning how to patient feedback on the web well, in a way which produces real service improvement, so we welcome comments on how we might do this better.
Is this suitable to send to regulators?Mary Hawking 320 weeks ago
both Patient Opinion and iwantbettercare are very keen to assure contributers that there is no way they can be identified or that they have received the services upon which they are commenting.
This may be a good policy to encourage contributions, but is also a license for the malicious complainer, and will be more so if and when anonymous comments and complaints are sent to regulatory bodies - as happens now with Patient Opinion (all comments even if not published sent to the Health Care Commission) and hoped for in the case of iwantbettercare (GMC) .
We already know that an unsubstantiated allegation which was never investigated can remain on your police record and affect your CRB check: is it the intention of the founders of these sites that the same system should apply in professional regulation?