Good news for patients

Some good news – the national launch of Patient Opinion took place on 3 January:

There’s lots of official information about the NHS available on the Internet. You can find out which hospital got 2-stars and – if you’re persistent – what the MRSA infection rate is. But what people also want is to find out what other patients thought.

Patient Opinion, ( which launched nationally this week is an independent website where patients can do exactly that. It represents a revolutionary exercise in public feedback on health services that takes free-form patient stories about their experiences and creates structured data that can drive service improvement.  So a patient being referred to a particular speciality can review what previous patients at a range of hospitals thought about the services – for example did they think the wards were clean? And they can add their own experience to help future patients.

Patient Opinion’s founder Sheffield GP Paul Hodgkin says: “Although our start up funding comes from the Department of Health and South Yorkshire SHA, Patient Opinion is structured as an independent, not-for-profit social enterprise and we generate income by selling collated themes and reports to Trusts and PCTs. Subscribing Trusts also get the ability to direct data feeds of interest to relevant managers and clinicians.” He added it has been developed in support of the NHS Choose and Book programme in order to help patients decide where they want to be treated. It complements official NHS statistics and star ratings and as well as being independent, it is confidential and free to patients.

Livio Hughes, director of Headshift, the UK’s leading social software internet consultancy says: “We were determined to avoid turning the Patient Opinion site into yet another token ‘patient’ website. Instead, the communication model uses a range of social software tool and techniques – from patient weblogs to feed aggregation – to create reliable patient-generated reputations for individual departments and services, and shares these with prospective patients at the point when they are choosing a provider.”

The site’s system is simple, easy to use and requires patients just to tell their story in their own terms – it uses a specially-designed social tagging system to learn from the informal language used by patients, rather than forcing them to use official medical and healthcare terminology. Patients are given a treatment diary and the system will help them prepare for consultations with doctors. It is also the first major application to achieve real-time web service integration with NHS.UK to ensure information is up-to-date and relevant.