Service evaluation using patient opinion as a case study

Date:  2009/2010 

The evaluation team includes: Deborah Davidson (programme lead), Jo Ellins and Hilary Brown (HSMC)

Dr Dione Hills, Olivia Joyner, David Drabble and  Dr Joe Cullen (Research Associate) (Tavistock Institute)

Karol Szlichcinski (independent consultant)


In August 2009 the Health Services Management Centre (HSMC) at Birmingham University and the Tavistock Institute, were commissioned to evaluate web based patient and service user feedback for quality improvement in the health field, using Patient Opinion as a case study. The evaluation is funded by the Health Foundation.

HSMC and The Tavistock Institute are an experienced partnership bringing both strong subject knowledge (health, patient feedback and Web 2.0) and in depth evaluation expertise. The HSMC team lead by Deborah Davidson has national and international experience in healthcare research including studies on engagement, participation and involvement by both the public and service users and has recently completed research into real time patient feedback. The Tavistock Institute’s team, lead by Dr Dione Hills has an international reputation for its evaluation, assessment and review work. The Institute has undertaken several studies of ICT information and feedback systems. 

The aim of this research is to build an evidence base on the ability of web based patient and service user feedback to lead to improvements in the quality of care provided by healthcare organisations. Patient Opinion is the focal case study of this evaluation. Patient Opinion is an independent not for profit social enterprise, who use Web 2.0 technology to allow patients to have a ‘voice’ by making postings on their website, and to be heard by the NHS Service who they are referring too. Working as supplementary to NHS Choices, posts are emailed to the relevant NHS Service which then has the opportunity to publicly write back to the patient. Patients can post thanks, tips, complaints, concerns, stories or suggestions. Patient Opinion is radical in its openness, use of Web 2.0 technology and its aim: providing a new platform for feedback for the whole NHS.

Our evaluation approach reflects a range of different evaluation purposes, balancing the need to demonstrate outcomes and impacts of web based feedback systems with the need to capture and apply learning in order to support the future development of patient review and service user feedback initiatives. The evaluation incorporates a Theory of Change model, aimed at identifying the explicit and implicit visions of change/logic that underpin Patient Opinion.

The research design uses triangulation and is both summative and formative, as it has an evolutionary/learning focus aimed at applying the learning from the evaluation to supporting operational improvements and future strategic development of Patient Opinion.