An online patient feedback platform that has seen huge success in the health industry is being rolled out in aged care.
Care Opinion is an independent website where people can share their experiences of care and support services – good or bad – with the intention of influencing change in a constructive manner.
The concept was originally launched in the UK for hospitals and health providers as Patient Opinion and was brought to Australia in 2012.
Over the last five years Associate Professor Michael Greco, who founded the service, has worked hard to convince health providers of the benefits of resolving patient complaints in public and change the way in which feedback is handled.
“Care Opinion is not like Trip Advisor, which focuses on promoting consumerism and choice. Whilst there is a bit of that in what we do, the main focus is on collaboration,” A/P Greco said.
“We want to make it safe and simple for the public to write about their experience in a way that organisations can hear the feedback and use it to improve their services.”
“We are trying to move consumers from being passive recipients of care to change agents, at the same time working collaboratively with organisations to improve quality and safety.”
Consumers, families and staff are encouraged to write about their experience of a service. There are no grades or stars, just stories that are moderated for anonymity and then posted to the public website www.careopinion.org.au.
The stories are moderated and are not published instantaneously, so when serious allegations are made against a provider, the provider has the opportunity to write a response that is then published at the same time as the original complaint.
“With highly critical stories we do some work behind the scenes. About five to eight per cent of cases are highly critical,” A/P Greco said.
“Of course, if something is under coronial investigation we wouldn’t publish it. We are not about naming and shaming. But what surprises people to learn is that of the 175,000 stories published to date in the UK, 55 per cent have actually been positive.”
“A lot of people don’t want to complain, they just want to be heard. Care Opinion offers that forum and in many cases has prevented an escalation of an issue to a formal complaint.”
The home page of the Care Opinion website is where all stories are published, and along with the most recent stories the site provides some high level data about what people are discussing.
It also shows how many people have viewed a story, whether the provider has responded and where relevant, if change is occurring as a result of the story.
While consumers can write stories at no charge, providers wanting to respond need to take out a subscription.
A subscription gets you fully set up on the site which involves all the services you offer being put into the system, training and support in responding to stories, and access to detailed reports.
“We can generate themes from stories, visualisations around the safety and quality issues, and help you make sense of the feedback so you can make cost effective, measurable improvements,” A/ P Greco said.
“Basically we manage the platform, and providers make it available to their clients. Meanwhile, the provider is demonstrating its willingness to listen, to learn and to work with clients to improve its service.”
The price of an annual subscription is based on the number of facilities and numbers of beds or packages a provider has. Average rates range from $1,500 to $8,000 per year.
In health, this method of patient / provider collaboration has been so successful the new government in Western Australia has committed to rolling it out in every public hospital and health service in the state.
The decision to roll the product out to other care settings including aged care and change the name from Patient Opinion to Care Opinion has only come about recently.
HammondCare is the first provider to test the waters and is offering the feedback platform to its home care clients.
Due to the popularity of the original feedback platform in the UK, Patient Opinion began developing a dementia-friendly version of the site that uses pictures to tell a story, which is in the final testing stages.
For now, Greco and his team are hoping that aged care providers will see the positive opportunity the platform offers at a time when complaints and transparency are ongoing issues for the industry.
“Care Opinion is a relationship building site. It is about solving problems when they arise, and trying to reduce formal complaints,” he said.