The window to private doctors

Independent Practitioner Today asked Anne Coyne, consultant relationship manager at the Private Healthcare Information Network (PHIN), what were the top six things consultants needed to know about the organisation.

1 Private healthcare is seeing strong signs of recovery 

As has been widely reported from PHIN’s data, we are seeing strong signs of recovery post-pandemic within the private healthcare sector, not only across England but across the whole of the UK. 

This is particularly evident for self-pay, which has seen a jump of 30% from the second quarter of 2019 to the same quarter in 2021. 

Much of this has been driven by a rise in hip and knee replacement surgery and cataract surgery – all of which are now more commonly paid for through self-pay. 

2 We have a new patient-facing website 

PHIN launched a new-look website this summer and has seen traffic from patients grow steadily ever since. We now have more than 20,000 unique visitors trawling more than 70,000 pages each month. 

The design of the website is based on what patients told us would be helpful to them and is based around consultant profiles. 

Patients can now search for consultants by name, specialty or location and are given supporting information about common procedures. 

Since we launched, more than 2,000 patients have contacted a consultant or their secretary through our website, and that number continues to grow. 

The PHIN website not only plays a unique role in providing independent information to patients about hospitals and consultants, but it also offers consultants an opportunity to promote their practice to patients.

Patients continue to tell us that they are more likely to look at a profile that provides information about:

 A consultant’s training; 

 Their specialty and subspecialty interests; 

 The procedures that they perform;

 When the profile includes a photograph of the consultant. 

We encourage consultants who have yet to create a profile about themselves and their practice to log onto the PHIN Portal and do so. This will help patients access the information that they need. 

3 Patient satisfaction – independent feedback from patients

PHIN’s market research confirms that feedback from other patients who have received treatment or care from a consultant will influence their treatment decisions. As such, we recently started publishing our independently collected patient feedback scores for individual consultants. 

Working with hospital doctors, we use a standard set of questions and responses to generate two measures of patient feedback on our website: patient satisfaction and patient experience.

The measure is published when PHIN has received 30 or more complete feedback responses and is wholly independent. Any comments provided by patients are available to the hospitals submitting the feedback on the portal – these are not published on PHIN’s website. 

4 We co-design with consultants – particularly our portal 

We made some changes to the PHIN portal last year and wanted to test how well these changes have been received. 

At a recent review, we listened to the feedback of consultants – both what we heard directly as we go out and attend meetings, but also through a series of structured interviews. 

This is just a single stage of an ongoing process to design our systems in collaboration with consultants so that we respond to their needs. 

There are legal obligations on consultants for engaging with PHIN, but it should also be a benefit and a positive experience – we know that your time is precious. 

The portal is here to support consultants to create profiles and submit fee information but also to review the episode data that has been submitted to PHIN from private hospitals. 

We recommend that consultants take time to review this information in their Practice Report on the portal and use the ‘data issue process’ to notify hospitals of any queries on the data submitted

5 Fulfilling legal obligations 

We are there to support consultants and add benefits, but there are also legal obligations – specifically around transparency of costs and fees. 

More than 8,000 consultants have approved their fees for publication so far, allowing us to publish these for the benefit of patients and increase transparency. 

We contact all consultants who fall under these legal obligations directly using their GMC registered email address. If you receive an email from PHIN, please read it and take appropriate action. 

6 We have just published more safety measures   

In early December, we published a further set of safety measures. These will include unplanned re-admission, mortalities, unplanned transfers, serious injuries and returns to theatre. 

Understanding the sensitivities and complexities involved in publishing this type of information, we will be publishing by hospital sites only. 

We continue to work closely with the royal colleges and specialty associations, as well as with private hospitals, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) and others as we develop our strategy over the next five years to publish all of the required measures and bring greater value to patients. 

And we will always consult widely to ensure there should be no surprises when we publish new information.

Anne Coyne (right) is consultant relationship manager at the Private Healthcare Information Network