Six ways general practice PPGs could use Care Opinion

Update from Care Opinion

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Care Opinion is becoming more widely available to general practices wishing to receive and respond to online feedback from patients and carers. So some practices are starting to think about how their PPGs might get involved with online feedback about the practice.

This blog post suggests 6 ways a PPG might get involved.

Note: I have no particular expertise on PPGs. My understanding is that they vary widely in terms of purpose, size, activity and relationship with their practice. So these suggestions may be entirely unrealistic for some PPGs.

1: Raising patient awareness and gathering feedback

Although many services we work with are initially fearful of online feedback, most quickly move to a position of wanting more feedback than they actually receive.

Meanwhile, many patients would like to offer honest and meaningful feedback yet remain unaware of Care Opinion as a safe and simple way to do so. And some patients feel they need “permission” from the practice to post feedback online (especially if they wish to raise a concern).

The PPG could play an important role here in a number of ways:

  • Raising patient awareness of Care Opinion as a feedback route, using existing networks and communications
  • Communicating “permission” from the practice to make use of Care Opinion
  • Helping people directly (especially people without digital access/skills) to share their feedback

2: Identifying key themes in feedback

Many stories on Care Opinion show what is going well – and what could be improved. Sometimes it is difficult for busy operational/clinical staff to step back from the individual story and think about the wider improvement opportunities being presented.

Recent feedback about a practice on Care Opinion could be shared and discussed regularly at PPG meetings, in part with the aim of identifying good practice and improvement possibilities. Care Opinion provides simple reporting and visual tools to support this.

Because PPGs are sometimes subject to “the usual suspects” criticism, this opportunity to draw recent experience from a wider group of patients (many of whom will never attend the PPG) could also support the PPG in showing that its activity goes beyond “the usual suspects”.

3: Making improvement suggestions based on feedback

A natural next step from reading and discussing public online feedback about the practice is to suggest service improvements which would address any issues being raised.

These ideas could be shared privately with the practice, or publicly on Care Opinion.

4: Reviewing practice responses from a patient perspective

Responding to online feedback can be challenging, especially when feedback is critical. While some people are naturally empathic responders, others find it harder to get the right tone. In addition, what seems obvious to a staff member may be far from obvious to a patient.

Academic research evidence exists on what patients/users find valuable in a response on Care Opinion.

So another role a PPG might play, in keeping with its “critical friend” status, could be to provide feedback to the practice or to specific responders on how helpful their responses are, from a patient perspective.

Naturally, this feedback would be offered privately to the practice or specific responders, to support personal learning.

5: Responding to feedback online

It is possible in principle to grant a PPG member the ability to respond to feedback about their practice online. On Care Opinion multiple responses to feedback can be posted (i.e. by the practice and potentially by the PPG).

This would naturally require a strong degree of trust and understanding between PPG member and practice and might be unacceptable in many practices/PPGs.

Nonetheless, it is worth considering whether any benefits could result from this. For example:

  • Following a practice response, a further response from the PPG might add to the way the patient or the practice understands the issue
  • Patients might feel that their feedback is more likely to be taken seriously if the PPG also responds
  • Responses from the PPG will raise awareness of the PPG existence and role with patients who view the feedback
  • Such an open and transparent approach to feedback and improvement might create reputational benefits for the practice and the PPG, both locally and with CQC

Thus, there might be benefits here to practice, patients and PPGs, given a constructive and collaborative context.

6: Sharing practice responses/improvements with patients

On Care Opinion people can see how and where their feedback makes a difference to services. Many patients might be very encouraged to see how constructively the practice responds to feedback and the changes that result.

The PPG could play a valuable role here in communicating such responses/improvements to patients and carers via their existing networks and communications routes.

What do you think?

So there you are: 6 ways a PPG could get involved.

Realistic? Desirable? Let me know by responding below, or on Twitter.

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