Anonymity, veracity and power in online patient feedback: A quantitative and qualitative analysis of staff responses to patient comments on the ‘Care Opinion’ platform in Scotland

Louise Locock, Zoë Skea* (Corresponding Author), Gina Alexander, Caroline Hiscox, Lynn Laidlaw, Jenna Shepherd

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


To analyse how staff in one Scottish hospital respond to anonymised patient feedback posted on the nationally endorsed feedback platform Care Opinion; and to understand staff experiences of, and attitudes towards, engaging with Care Opinion data.

This was a multi-method study comprising: (a) numerical and thematic analysis of stories posted during a six-month period, using a published framework; (b) thematic analysis of interviews with a range of 10 hospital staff responsible for organisational responses to feedback.

Seventy-seven stories were published during the six-month period. All received a response, with a mean response time of 3.9 days. Ninety-six responses were made in total, from 20 staff members. Personalisation and tailoring was mostly assessed as performing well against the published framework. Only two ‘changes made’ were reported. While staff interviewed were mostly understanding of why patients might prefer giving anonymised feedback, some found it uncomfortable and challenging. Participants described instances where they might seek to de-anonymise the individual, in order to pass on personal thanks to the relevant staff member, or to investigate the issue raised and seek resolution offline. Patients did not always want to identify themselves; this could sometimes lead staff to query the veracity or importance of issues raised. Sometimes staff could identify individuals anyway, including one described as ‘our regular person’.

Staff used to engaging directly with patients and families, both clinically and in dealing with feedback, need support in dealing with anonymous feedback, and the uncomfortable situation of unequal power it may create.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
JournalDigital Health
Early online date22 Jan 2020
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2020



  • patient experience
  • patient feedback
  • online feedback
  • qualitative research
  • NHS Staff
  • anonymity
  • power
  • care opinion

Cite this