NHS Choices have a new hospital rating tool

Just discovered (via Twitter) that NHS Choices have released a new tool for users to rate hospitals. Fantastic. Government should embrace user generated content more often than it does, and feedback on Hospitals is a great application for it — but their implementation could do with a bit of tweaking.

First: the tool has been implemented as a new feature within the existing NHS choices website. Its design is clean, but very text heavy. This is not helped by the use of very long titles in the sidebar boxes that contain statistics — including the user-generated stuff — about the hospital you’re viewing. I suspect that they are this long because of a desire to make it ultra-clear which content is drawn from official statistics, and which is user-generated.

That’s a reasonable concern, but the site as it stands smacks of paranoia. I think that most people can tell which bits are official and which aren’t, even if the bits are in the same box. The distinction between “75% of people would recommend this hospital to a friend” and “1.33 MRSA infections for ever 10,000 bed stays” is obvious. There’s also a very strange chart in the user-generated sidebar: it appears in the middle of a sentence. I’d call myself a fairly seasoned web user, but even I found that confusing. It just looks broken.

Second: the comments aren’t prominent enough. They’re too far down the page, and relegated to a sidebar. They’re one of the most useful parts of the page — personal stories will always speak louder than dry statistics — so I’d give them a bit more importance, and put them in the main content area, beneath the hospital’s description. As well as being more prominent, it’s more consistent with how comments are usually presented.

If you click through to read all the comments, you find that they are presented in exactly this way on the next page, which is excellent: it displays all the comments in a way that makes it easy to absorb the ratings at a glance, summarises them right at the top of the page and has a prominent call to action for people who want to post feedback. Even more important than that, it has replies from the hospitals, which is fantastic. Government forays into the social web rarely ever result in real two-way communication. To see it being done is encouraging.

In short — despite being a bit rough around the edges — this is a nice bit of work, and definitely a big step in the right direction.