Patients are increasingly describing their healthcare experiences publicly online. This has been facilitated by digital technology, a growing focus on transparency in healthcare and the emergence of a feedback culture in many sectors. Due to this area being previously unexplored, the objective of this study was to identify a typology of responses that healthcare staff provide on Care Opinion (www.careopinion.org.uk), a not-for-profit online platform on which patients are able to provide narrative feedback about health and social care in the UK. Framework analysis was used to qualitatively analyse a purposive sample of 486 stories regarding hospital care, and their 475 responses. Five response types were identified: non-responses, generic responses, appreciative responses, offline responses and transparent, conversational responses. The key factors that varied between these response types included the extent to which responses were specific and personal to the patient story, how much responders' embraced the transparent nature of public online discussion and whether or not responders suggested that the feedback had led to learning or impacted subsequent care delivery. Staff provide varying responses to feedback from patients online, with the response types provided being likely to have strong organisational influences. The findings offer valuable insight, advancing the relatively unexplored research area. They also have both practical and theoretical implications for those looking to enable meaningful conversations between patients and staff to help inform improvement. Future research should focus on the relationship between response type, organisational culture and the ways in which feedback is used in practice.

Experience Framework

This article is associated with the Innovation & Technology lens of The Beryl Institute Experience Framework. (http://bit.ly/ExperienceFramework)

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