The phenomenon of Internet users sharing their opinions about products and services online is well into the mainstream now, with large etailers like Amazon.com encouraging customer reviews, sites like TripAdvisor asking travellers to review lodging in destinations around the world and ratings systems for buyers to evaluate sellers on sites like ebay and others. Online, anyone can evaluate anyone else – and unlike the real world in many cases, what one person says can make a difference. It can travel further. But one area where this opinions and voices have not typically extended is when it comes to healthcare. True there are vibrant discussion boards about all kinds of conditions, support networks for pregnant women and new moms on sites like Babycenter, and other health forums for discussion – but when it comes to evaluating health care providers, the outlets for patients to have their say are woefully nonexistent.
So it was with interest that I came across Patient Opinion, a site described as "a new service that tells you what other people are saying about your local health services and lets you share your story with others." Launched by a very smart UK-based internet consulting group called Headshift – it is an effort founded through a partnership between the UK Department of Health and South Yorkshire Strategic Health Authority. The site itself is full of smart features such as the ability to sort and search opinions by UK postcode, grouping opinions into "Thanks" or "Moans", and intelligent interface design choices, like the ability to toggle between 3 text sizes and predominant use of text to aid screen reading software. There is a great description of the objective and necessity for the site on Headshift’s blog. I’d love to see this concept extended to more markets around the world, including the US. I wonder if it would work as well in a country without a centralized healthcare system?