You don't have to read many stories on Care Opinion, and see how often concerns are addressed by thoughtful responding, before you will find yourself thinking that real-time online feedback could be a good way to resolve very many issues before they become formal complaints.
And you would not be the first to think that. One of the most frequent questions I hear from people hearing about Care Opinion for the first time is: "Does this reduce complaints?"
It's a tricky question to investigate, but we do have some evidence to suggest that the answer could be yes.
First, in some services, lead clinicians or managers believe their complaints reduced after they started promoting Care Opinion to patients and carers.
For example, Dr Ben Mearns, chief of medicine at Surrey and Sussex NHS Trust, told us: "Care Opinion allowed us to have much less guarded conversations with patients, that felt much less adversarial and complaint-driven. It felt as if the number of complaints reduced."
Second, we have some data from our surveys of authors which suggest that people may feel no need to make a complaint, provided that they feel that the online response to their feedback is personalised and addresses the issues raised.
One patient wrote to us: "It was brilliant in that it helped me to let off steam and a real person was there quickly to help me feel better."
Data from Australia
And now, thanks to the efforts of staff at Sydney Eye Hospital in Australia, we have some quantitative data too. In a review of their work with Patient Opinion Australia, they found that in the year before promoting online feedback, they had 70 complaints. In the year following the introduction of Patient Opinion, this fell to 50 complaints.
The numbers are small and of course there is no control group - but this is intriguing and points to a clear need for more robust research around this issue. Here's the full Sydney Eye Hospital poster for download:
We are learning that online feedback, done well, can lead to improved staff morale, issue resolution, service improvement, and - perhaps - complaint reduction. And all at a far lower cost than traditional feedback approaches.
Do get in touch if you have any more data or experience you can contribute to this important question.
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Question from Care Opinion
Posted by James Munro, Chief executive, Care Opinion, on
Response from Gina Alexander, Director, Care Opinion Scotland, Care Opinion on 17 Jul 2018 at 12:13
Thanks for this James.
I am asked and often ask this question of services too: have you noticed any impact on your formal complaints?
Very often I am told that any impact on complaints is as a result of a combination of factors and that it's difficult to correlate impact directly or solely to the use of Care Opinion.
However, your blog has prompted me to ask again. Will let you know how we get on!