Doctors rarely aware of online feedback from patients

Doctors and nurses in the United Kingdom are largely unaware of the online feedback they receive from patients, though they assume the posted comments skew negative, a study has found.

What happened?

The National Institute for Health Research and the University of Warwick have published a survey of 1,001 registered doctors in primary and secondary care and 749 nurses and midwives in the United Kingdom.

Less than a third (28 percent) of doctors and around a fifth of nurses surveyed were aware of online feedback concerning the care they had given, and even fewer were aware of comments directed at them personally.

Moreover, the majority of respondents had never encouraged patients to leave online feedback in the first place, although feedback on reviews or ratings sites was seen as more useful than social media feedback to help improve services.

Fewer than one in 10 doctors encourage patients “all the time” or “more often than not,” with nurses also reporting that they never (40 percent) or rarely (23 percent) encourage their patients or patient caregivers to leave feedback on internet reviews and ratings sites.

In relation to use of social media, two-thirds of doctors said they either somewhat or strongly agreed that feedback is generally negative, but healthcare professionals said they felt formal review and ratings sites could be more useful in shaping health services than unstructured feedback on social media.

Why it matters?

“Professionals were more wary of social media than they were of ratings and review websites so these are probably the easiest ways to source feedback in practice,” Warwick Medical School’s Helen Atherton said. “You know where your patient is going and you can pick up comments and act on them, something that is more difficult with social media.

“We saw a lack of awareness from healthcare professionals of when feedback had been left about the care they delivered, whether as an individual or team,” Atherton noted.

What is the trend?

The results indicated many healthcare professionals have little direct experience of online feedback and view it as unrepresentative, offering limited value for improving the quality of health services.

Doctors were generally more likely than nurses to believe online feedback was unrepresentative and generally negative in tone, and feedback was more likely to be seen as useful by nurses compared with doctors and hospital-based professionals.

On the record

“Overall, awareness and use by doctors is low. But we are seeing that doctors are much more negative about online feedback than nurses, and more so with GPs,” Atherton concluded. “There’s a real need that if National Health Service organizations are collecting this data that they need to be communicating it to frontline staff, because it’s pointless for the patients if their message isn’t getting through.”

Nathan Eddy is a healthcare and technology freelancer based in Berlin.

Email the writer: [email protected]

Twitter: @dropdeaded209

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