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Humanising care: the theme threading our conference together

Update from Care Opinion Australia

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About: Australia

picture of Rebecca Somerville

A wrap-up of Care Opinion’s inaugural conference

What an honour it was to have Gaja Kerry Charlton open our event with a Welcome to Country. Gaja Kerry is an elder of the Go’enpul Tribe of Yuggera Country, on which land the Care Opinion Australia office sits. She is a Traditional Owner of Yuggera, Qu Andamooka (Moreton Bay) and Kabi Kabi Country and has traditional ties to the Gulf area. It was heart-warming to have our attendees respond and acknowledge the lands on which they themselves were joining the conference.

That 250 people registered to tune in to the conference was evidence alone of the rising interest in public, online feedback. Our conference focus was on how public, online feedback addresses the ‘the missing link’. However, with speakers across different sectors, borders and perspectives, what we didn’t expect was for one single theme to seamlessly thread itself across each and every speaker in five simple words: The importance of humanising care.


Amelia Graves, a mum, clinical nurse, consumer and carer, opened her heart to share a story that demonstrated how one person’s drive for change can really make a difference for many. Her story detailed her fight to have decals put over the full-length mirrors opposite the ensuite showers in the eating disorders unit that were causing great distress in patients with body dysmorphia. When concerns raised directly with staff and via internal feedback channels were unsuccessful, Amelia wrote a story on Care Opinion, resulting in a response from the Executive Director and the decals affixed to the mirrors. Amelia’s story highlighted the power of public, online feedback and the importance of listening to consumers and seeing things through patients’ eyes. It highlighted the importance of humanising care.


From our national panel, we heard Care Opinion (formerly known as Patient Opinion) described as being the most powerful heart of transforming organisational culture to be more patient-centred and open to learning from lived experience. I think many people would have been surprised that, in the CEO of Central Gippsland Health’s experience, far from posing a risk to organisational reputation, the transparency of the platform is considered reputation-enhancing due to the manner, tone and content of his staff’s responses to highly critical posts, the way they humanised care.


What did the research tell us?

When Dr Rebecca Baines presented findings from her academic research, we learned more about the power of patient narrative and online feedback. She shared a UK Clinical Manager’s comments about their use of Care Opinion:

‘So, for me, it's such a refreshing change, because we predominantly get positive responses and feedback. It's just so nice to be able to cling on to that and share the feedback to the staff. They do really nice positive things. It helps improve morale, it helps people's resilience to know that there are actually some really grateful people out there. And you know what, you are doing a good job. And sometimes you just need that little bit of a reminder.’


During her multiple research projects, Rebecca identified many benefits of online, narrative feedback. A few examples include:

Online feedback

  • Helps to increase the relationship between patients, the public and the organisation working with it.
  • Can help to increase transparency, feedback, authenticity and responsiveness.


Narrative feedback

  • Helps to address issues by allowing patients and the public to share aspects of experience that matter most to them, and not those that have been decided by them.
  • Elicits greater insights and enables more contextual information to be provided.

This research also revealed the relational side of feedback for both staff and patients, and that humanising care is certainly a two-way process.  


Prof. Jason Leitch CBE then discussed the significance of the Scottish Government implementing Care Opinion across the country due to the Government’s stringent selectivity when choosing vendors. He further explained a previous statement he has made that Care Opinion was the most important thing the Scottish Government has done for patient-centred care in the last 10 years. He based his statement on the platform’s technical functionality and relational method of safely linking staff, system, patients and families in a way that lets organisations know what is working and what isn’t.

Dr James Munro and James both acknowledged that implementing online, public feedback via Care Opinion is a journey, rather than a race as it takes time to influence cultural change. However, the strength in using anonymous, moderated dialogical feedback has supported many organisations; indeed it has helped Scotland health providers in their delivery of patient-centred care across the country.   The need to humanise care.

Jason summed this up perfectly when he said:

“… It's because people do react, they react as humans, they react emotionally, they think this person's had a bad time, I want to help this person, I don't want that to happen again, for people like the person who's told their story, we need to make a change.”


Having gained so many unique perspectives into the world of public online feedback and its ability to be implemented across many different services, nationally and internationally, it is evident that online, moderated feedback provides the missing link – human care and connection – between service providers and consumers.  


Reliance on digital technologies will only increase yet relationships and engagement with consumers to support change will remain a priority. Care Opinion Australia acknowledges that patient feedback is relational and has been specifically developed to restore relationships, resolve issues, build trust and reduce formal complaints. The two-way narrative model emphasises the importance of patient feedback in driving human connections, rather than simply just data collection. It recognises the importance of humanising care.

Snippets from our Inaugural Care Opinion Australia Virtual Conference, The purpose of patient feedback: how does public online feedback address the missing link? are available at our Conference Showcase: https://vimeo.com/showcase/8442720. Alternatively, to listen to each conference session, visit https://vimeo.com/showcase/8442710.

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