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Citizen power to transform healthcare?

December 3, 2010

An article I wrote with Professor David Kerr was published this week in Public Service.

It’s fascinating to see the Department of Health and major health providers adopting approaches and techniques that just a few years ago were dismissed by senior health professionals and NHS managers.
The transformation of the health service will not occur as a result of another structural change (this is clear from the many such ineffective reorganisations over the last 30 years), rather it will happen once the wisdom of patients is harnessed and made central in the measurement, assessment and planning of services. Which will be the first NHS Trust or Commissioner to appoint a Chief Experience Officer to a senior position on the board to oversee such an approach?

From the Public Service article:

In Wales all those using the palliative care and hospice services (patients and carers) provide continuous feedback on their care using an online service. After a year-long pilot, it has been extended to include data collection online and offline, in both English and Welsh.

In his Information Revolution for Health paper last year, David Cameron outlined how harnessing the power of patients could create the change that top-down targets have failed to do and highlighted as an example of the sort of innovative approach needed to deliver the change. The service makes it as easy to rate and review doctors, hospitals, dentists, pharmacists and nursing homes as it is to rate a book from Amazon, or a seller on e-bay.

There is nothing to stop healthcare in the UK seeing the same radical improvement and change that TripAdvisor has delivered for hotels across the world and the people staying in them. This will not cost a fortune, but rather requires government to legislate that all providers of care must have robust, effective, open systems to collect and share feedback on key items – not just the piecemeal, ineffective surveys that have been the norm.

It is then up to patients, their families and the associations who represent them to ask questions, demand transparency of information about effectiveness and outcomes of the care provided and read independent opinion and ratings from other patients.

The public needs to make considered choices based on this information – and then to take two minutes to give feedback, reviews and ratings on the care provided.

Enlightening the next user in this way works across other industries and will deliver a profound change in healthcare, supporting the concept of an empowered public to finally create the market needed to drive mediocrity out of the NHS.

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