Patient Experience Week in Western Australia

Update from Care Opinion Australia

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Here is the text from Michael Greco’s speech at the WA Health Consumer Council Patient Experience Week Breakfast on 30 April 2019.  

Thank you to the Executive Director Pip Brennan, Health Minister, the Director General, CEOs, Senior Executives and the Department of Health. I too would like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land, and pay my respects to elders: past, present and future. 

Patient Opinion in WA 

Western Australia is the first jurisdiction to have State-wide adoption of Patient Opinion as its public online feedback platform. We are hoping one or two other States will follow soon, but the fact is, you were the first to do so. I want to thank you for that, and in particular the Minister for putting his trust in what Patient Opinion is about.

It’s been an exciting couple of years as the Director General has alluded to. Prior to this we first started with a few of the Country Health regions. There were three regions in particular: Kimberley, Mid-West and Great Southern: who decided to give Patient Opinion a go. It seems so long ago, especially now that things are well in progress. I want to thank them for their trailblazing.


It’s important to say that Patient Opinion was well aware that health services were involved in lots of different ways of gathering patient experience measures, and then using this data to try and improve their services. In fact, at times, we were greeted with the concern that adopting Patient Opinion was just another thing to do, when data on patient experience was already being captured. So for some, the adoption of Patient Opinion was initially seen as a burden and duplication.

Furthermore, there were questions about how an anonymous platform, that was public facing, could be useful for their organisation. What about reputational risk? And how can the organisation do anything if they don’t know the identity of the storyteller? To name just a few of the concerns raised.

These are all valid concerns and I hope we’ve been able to address them over the past couple of years. The evidence is quite clear….you are now engaging with anonymity and you are doing things that bring about change.

What makes Patient Opinion Unique?

So what makes Patient Opinion different? We would say that it’s not so much about collecting data (your methods currently do that) but it’s more about 3 things: connecting people; learning (for all staff) and bringing about change where necessary.  #Connecting   #Learning   #Change

Our mission at Patient Opinion is quite simple. To provide an online platform so that:

  • people 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

We would summarise the difference between Patient Opinion and how health services were previously doing things in terms of the following criteria:

  • The anonymity of the authors
  • Quick response by an executive, and other staff, to the author
  • Less guarded conversations with patients
  • The different language used- more patient-centred rather than organisation-centric
  • Less adversarial than complaints process. In fact, evidence of reducing formal complaints
  • Shared with peak bodies- such as DoH, Minister’s office, HCC, consumer advisory groups and others.
  • Feedback is available to all staff

In this way, Patient Opinion is a relational platform … it’s about building dialogue and TRUST with those that use your services.

Western Australia’s achievements so far

Much has been achieved since all area health services are now engaged. WA has had 1,670 stories that have now been viewed over 639,000 times.  Of these stories:

  • 49% have been purely positive.
  • Only 7% are highly critical stories or what you would typically call a formal complaint
  • And 99 stories or 6% of all stories have led to changes being planned or made by services. If you ignore the purely positive stories, this equates changes to 12% of stories with an issue or concern.
  • Interestingly the source of stories is as follows:
  • 59% are from patients,
  • 18% are parents/guardians;
  • 13% relatives;
  • 4% carers;
  • and the remaining 6% from friends, advocates, and even staff.

So, what’s next?

When you engage with Patient Opinion, you embark on a journey of organisational culture change with public online feedback.

This journey doesn’t happen over-night. It takes time. And there are usually incremental steps involved. For example, initially you might find services confining the platform to executive management staff only, then over time, they may begin to devolve the platform to middle management staff because consumers have said they prefer responses to come from those closest to where their care event took place. And over time you may find that public online feedback is everyone’s business, that more and more staff are alerted to stories to help them understand what it’s like ‘walking in the shoes of the patient’. 

In the UK, the platform is also used for training health students – nursing and medical. These students use the platform as part of their curriculum learning and assignment writing. In addition, we are in the process of developing an APP so that these students can be alerted each day with one story that interests them.

Many of you will know that one of our more recent developments was making the platform available for cognitively impaired people. This was done by allowing people to tell their story using pictures. We are finding that all sorts of people are using a combination of words and pictures to tell their story, not just those with cognitive impairment.

Finally, public online feedback is not just for health services. It should be something that all citizens can engage with when using CARE services. That is why we developed Care Opinion, for adult social care services, and we are now looking to roll it out in the Aged Care Sector in the first instance and then disability services.

And here’s a heads-up...

We are looking to change our name in the future to Care Opinion.

Given the emphasis on CARE, whether in health or social care, we are looking to change our name in the future to Care Opinion. This will be an international brand as it is already in the UK. Other countries are looking to implement Care Opinion throughout their health systems. Care Opinion is becoming an international movement and an international family if you like.

I wish you well on your journey with Patient Opinion. We know that it has the potential to better connect you with your community and build trust; to better support your staff learning with patient-centred stories, and to support the changes you undertake to make your health service the best it can be.

Connect, Learn, Change - thank you for listening. 

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