Accepted Paper:

Whose feedback is it anyway? Enacting agency in online health experience reports  


Farzana Dudhwala (Oxford University)

Paper short abstract:

Online patient feedback is increasingly used to obtain views from patients. This results in healthcare services being shaped in the name of certain 'patients' at the exclusion of others. This paper addresses the changing nature of health services as a response to patient experience data.

Paper long abstract:

Online patient feedback is increasingly becoming a favourable route through which to obtain the views, suggestions, complaints, and compliments from patients. But what kinds of patient is this move towards online feedback creating? Who is given a voice, and who is silenced? Does this sharing of personal experiences foster informed choice, or create confusion? How do healthcare institutions and their staff decide which of the many modes of online feedback to give attention and weight to? Does a Facebook post count? Does a 3,000 word blog recounting an operation count? Or must the feedback be solicited through more sanctioned and vetted means such as dedicated sites and online surveys? 

This paper deals with issues of agency, fluidity (c.f. de Laet & Mol, 2000) and negotiated multiplicity (c.f. Mol, 2002). Who is given the potential of agency, and from whom is it taken away? What are the many, fluid uses that the feedback is put to? To what extent are some different avenues of feedback coordinated into a unified whole, at the exclusion of others?

Drawing on insights from an ethnography conducted in UK NHS Hospitals, this paper develops a form of 'empirical ontology'  (c.f. Law & Lien, 2012) in the context of online patient feedback, as well as tending to arguments about 'representing and intervening' (e.g. Hacking, 1983) by problematising the 'who' that is created by online feedback - not just in terms of a 'feedback-able patient', but in terms of a 'response-able healthcare institution'.

Panel G07
STS for critical public health studies