Thank you to Michael Greco, CEO at Care Opinion Australia, for answering our questions about Care Opinion and how it is a one of a kind platform for consumer-focused feedback about Australian aged and community care services.
What is Care Opinion’s mission and how do consumers benefit?
The mission of Care Opinion is to provide a public online platform that:
- People (e.g. consumer, carer, advocate, staff) can share honest feedback easily and without fear
- Stories are directed to wherever they can help make a difference, and
- Everyone can see how and where services are listening and changing in response.
In this way, the Care Opinion platform enables consumers to be heard in a safe environment. It also enables them to see how providers respond to feedback - good, bad or indifferent.
How do care providers benefit from Care Opinion?
Providers benefit in a number of ways:
- Not only protects reputation but enhances it through moderation, training & support
- Connects with the community in a transparent and constructive way
- Reduces formal complaints by up to 50%
- Compliant with the new Quality Standard 6, due 1st July 2019
- Increases staff engagement
- Improved lead generation through consumer search & select process
- Operational improvements driven by consumer experience
- Data-driven insights through comprehensive reporting
- Validation of staff training & development impact through consumer data delivered seamlessly through alerts
How is Care Opinion different from other consumer review platforms?
It’s important to note that Care Opinion is not just a review/rating solution. Sites such as TripAdvisor work well for transactional industries such as hotels and restaurants. But such solutions are too blunt for aged care and can be potentially dangerous. Rather, Care Opinion is much safer and more constructive for consumers and providers. Its mission is to provide a platform that resolves issues, restores relationships, builds community trust, reduces formal complaints and promotes staff learning. In this way, the platform is relational, and not just a ‘survey solution’.
How is a consumer-centric system superior to an organisation-centric approach?
Not every consumer feedback platform is created equal - what makes Care Opinion so unique is that it is a consumer-centric system, not an organisation-centric system. It is best explained by a CEO of a large care provider: he was doing what many organisations are currently doing, using real-time hand-held data-gathering methods and getting dashboards of results. But when he began implementing Care Opinion, he discovered a whole new way of connecting with the community in a transparent way. He said that surveys ask things that the organisation wants to hear and gather, but Care Opinion starts with what the consumer wants to say, which is often very different from what organisations want to ask them. The emphasis is more about ‘what matters to you’ rather than ‘what’s the matter with you’. The first 10 stories he received via Care Opinion gave him new insights that he could act on that the previous 150,000 consumer surveys hadn't.
What would you say to providers who are worried about their reputation or being hijacked into a system with hidden costs?
The general public and consumers are already writing about them online anyway, and often in a harsh and critical way, but providers find it difficult to engage with these comments. In addition, such comments are not moderated to ensure there is meaningful engagement. What this platform does is help protect reputational risk but allowing the public and the provider to interact and dialogue more constructively.
There are no hidden costs – the site is free to use for the public, and it’s free for providers to respond to a story. Only when the provider wants more enhanced functionality such as more email alerts, more responders, comprehensive reporting such as statistics, themed analysis, and visualisations, is when they are encouraged to take out a subscription.
Some providers may be concerned about or find it hard to deal with negative feedback. Why is any feedback, positive or negative, a good thing for providers?
As they say in consumer-driven systems, any feedback is good feedback. Aged care is moving into consumer-directed care, so there will even be more incentive to gather this feedback, listen to it, and demonstrate to the consumer that their feedback is valuable. It’s about providers encouraging everyone to provide their feedback, no matter whether good, bad or indifferent. What providers will need to cultivate in their organisations is a culture that values feedback. This means that all staff should be encouraging their consumers to feel safe in providing such feedback. This is what makes Care Opinion on AgegCareGuide so powerful. The platform is independent and anonymous – key factors for providers when trying to engage consumers to give their feedback.
Why is transparency so important in the aged care sector at the moment?
Various inquiries (such as Oakden nursing home) and the current Royal Commission into Aged Care all highlight the need for aged care services to demonstrate transparency. For too long, there have been cases where complaints and feedback have been undertaken ‘behind closed doors’, and little has been done to continuously improve quality. Transparency will bring these shortcomings to light, highlight accountability, and drive the aged care sector to lift the quality of their services. The new quality standards, and in particular Standard 6 on Feedback and Complaints, ask providers to ensure their feedback systems are safe for consumers. A transparent, anonymous, constructive, public online system, such as Care Opinion Australia, provides a platform that enables providers to handle complaints and feedback in this way.
What is the purpose of Care Opinion on Aged Care Guide?
Care Opinion has partnered with Aged Care Guide as they are the leading directory of aged care services in Australia, and recently celebrated 20 years of service. Over 1.6million people visit their site every year thus enabling the general Australian public to hear more about how they can share the story of their experiences of aged care services. Aged Care Guide undertook extensive market research into consumer need and found that they were looking for a simple and safe way of giving feedback to providers about their experience. Aged Care Guide found that Care Opinion Australia (a not-for-profit organization) had proven performance and outcomes with 14+ years of experience in care related industries in the UK and 7+ years in Australia. Care Opinion has been successful in rigorous Australian government tenders and selected as the mandated consumer feedback platform for WA Health, and now VIC Health is trialling the site on the back of the success in WA.
Care Opinion on Aged Care Guide, a purpose-built consumer platform and quality assurance management tool, was developed for Aged Care in Australia in conjunction with those that also formally endorse it; including ACSA, LASA, ACIA and COTA, as well as being supported by Federal Minister Ken Wyatt.
Care Opinion on Aged Care Guide has been running for 4-5 months. Can you tell us how the tool has made a difference in that time for consumers and for providers?
The difference for consumers is that they can trust the site to post their story about their or their loved one’s story. It’s safe and simple to post a story, and they can see how their story is treated by the provider – did they listen, who listened, did they respond and who responded, and the impact it had on the service, did they make a change for example or are they planning to make a change.
The difference for providers is that they can easily connect with consumers, no matter who they are (clients, family, friends, advocates, etc), and they can do this in a safe and meaningful way. It’s safe because all stories are moderated to protect the anonymity of consumers and the safety of staff. Reputational risk is minimised because of the moderation process. You don’t get this on general social media platforms which have not been built for aged care.
It ’s also about building trust in the community as the public can see how the providers respond to stories. In this way Care Opinion on Aged Care Guide is a relational way of engaging with the public, not just a tick and flick, or review/rate which is too blunt an approach for the aged care industry.
Why is Care Opinion on Aged Care Guide an important part of improving transparency in the current environment?
Trust in the Aged Care industry is at an all-time low. Recent research presented an annual conference showed that trust is at 18%. In order to turn this around, providers will need to demonstrate their transparency. And the industry has recognised this by implementing the new Quality Standards and in particular Standard 6 which is about feedback and complaints. The emphasis here is that providers need to demonstrate ways of making it safe and simple for consumers to provide feedback in an open and transparent way. They also need to demonstrate that they have listened to and acted on the feedback. Care Opinion on Aged Care Guide has been designed over the past 14 years to support providers to interact with their clients in this way.
What role can Care Opinion on Aged Care Guide play for consumers who are new to aged care and are trying to navigate the sector?
It’s an opportunity for consumers to read the stories about providers, and just as important, to read the quality of how providers respond to stories. In this way, consumers will gain an understanding of how seriously providers value feedback from consumers. I think what consumers are looking for is not just a ‘score on the door’, that’s too simple and often misleading. What they want to see is the dialogue, the story, as it’s the story that we all remember and can relate to. Care industries, such as aged care, need more than a review/rate site. They need a relational feedback platform that is:
- independent (so that providers can’t control things),
- anonymous (so that they feel safe),
- public (so that they can’t be ignored), transparent (so that they can see what others are saying),
- accessible (24/7)
- constructive (so that they can see their story is being treated as a ‘gift’ to the provider)
Can you give an example of a story you have come across that has left an impression on you (positive or negative)?
There have been many stories that have impacted on me – stories from young and old. Care Opinion has been running in the healthcare sector in Australia for the past seven years, so we have lots more examples there. One story that does stand out is a woman who told the story about her father dying in a hospital. She felt that the hospital has little or no understanding of what it’s like for a family to have their parent pass away in a hospital. She eloquently wrote about their experience – it was about 2 pages – and one section read like a ‘litany of being too busy’. Her story had a profound impact on the CEO and other staff, so much so that they launched Care Opinion a couple of months later, and the lady who wrote the story was the keynote speaker. This hospital has embraced Care Opinion wholeheartedly and they are seeing the benefits such as reduced formal complaints, more informed staff about patient experience, and a culture that is focused on ‘putting the patient first’.
What does the future hold for Care Opinion?
The future is bright because many care organisations, such as aged care providers, are being encouraged through their quality standards to engage with consumers more actively, safely and transparently. Given that the consumer's voice is key to continuous quality improvement, we expect to see many more organisations engaging with Care Opinion so that they can build trust, resolve issues, reduce complaints, encourage staff learning and continually improve their services all within the one platform.
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Update from Care Opinion Australia
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Thanks for your feedback.