Real-time patient feedback can drive performance improvement in general practice and have a positive impact on patient engagement, a pilot study has found.

The Department of Health ran a project in 22 GP practices in England to evaluate the impact of real-time patient feedback collected using tablet PCs, kiosks and desktop devices.

During the pilot, which ran between October 2009 and March 2010, practices used one of three devices to get feedback from patients before or after they saw a clinician.

Questions covered a variety of topics, such as patients’ views on their experience of visiting the practice, their understanding of the services offered, or their opinion of changes that had been made or that the practice planned to make.

The DH said that real-time patient feedback was implemented successfully and enthusiastically across the range of different practices. The majority reported that they got value from taking part and thought that feedback had the potential to improve patient experience.

The study identified that real-time feedback could drive performance improvement and increase patient engagement. However, it also found it needed to be actively promoted to engage patients and staff and that costs could be a challenge for individual practices.

The report says that costs are likely to start from around £1,500-£2,500 a year for an individual GP practice using a single, basic feedback device. Practices using a number of devices and needing additional support from their supplier would need to pay more.

A report on the study, the Best Practice Guide to using Real time Patient Feedback, suggests that costs would not be such a significant barrier if practices had primary care trust or GP commissioniong consortium support.

It also says costs could be significantly reduced if technology devices were shared across practices, to use on an issue specific or rota basis.

The best practice guide includes a six point guide to implementing real-time patient feedback covering planning, running the surveys, analysing and acting on the results and evaluating the process.