In a column written for the Healthcare Markets Magazine, PHINs communications manager Alistair Moses looks at how the PHIN website is providing a clearer picture of the healthcare market.

This article was written for, and first published in, Healthcare Markets magazine.

PHIN’s primary role is to publish information that will make the private healthcare market more transparent and easier for patients to use, and to help them with their private healthcare choices. As such our website,, is the key tool in ensuring we, and the hospitals and consultants we work with, meet the requirements of the Competition and Markets Authority’s Private Healthcare Markets Order.

The website (including our hospital and consultant portal) is where we publish all our data and thanks to the work we’ve put in to develop it – and to our members for supplying increasing amounts of data – it is being used by more and more patients every month.

Number of monthly visitors/page views to PHIN’s website since its relaunch in July 2021 (rounded)

Where do they come from?

There is often a perception that London is the ‘be-all and end-all’ of private healthcare in UK and it’s true that a high percentage of treatments take place there.

London accounts for around a third of all traffic to the PHIN website, which aligns closely with the proportion of patients discharged from hospitals in the capital. The remaining two-thirds of private treatment is carried out in other parts of the UK, most prominent of which are the South East, the East of England and the North West in terms of numbers of patients.

Visitors to PHIN’s website in 2022, with top 10 UK locations highlighted

We are working with patients and providers to increase the number of visitors to our website in 2023, and ensure that there is robust representation of consultants in a range of specialties up and down the UK.

Approximately 10% of our website traffic comes from an international audience; led by the United States (2%), India (2%) and the Republic of Ireland (1%). This presents a potential opportunity to share the benefits of the UK’s private healthcare sector with prospective customers from abroad too.

What do people use the website for?

As well as finding out general information about the private healthcare sector, an important aspect of the PHIN website is that it allows users to find out more about the hospitals and consultants they can choose for their procedure, including fee details, patient feedback and other practical information. In fact, the majority of visits to the website are straight to profile pages rather than the main homepage.

While on the profile pages patients can make contact with hospitals and consultants, which is something that is happening increasingly often. Since the website was launched, there have been over 70,000 contacts made. In January 2023 the number of contacts made via the PHIN website was at an all-time high.

This means that the website can be a useful customer acquisition tool for healthcare providers and consultants, as well as serving patients. 

What do we learn from our website visitors?

We host an online survey on the website and feedback from that tells us that most of our users are patients and that they like what they see when they visit our website. Over 5,000 visitors have now completed the survey since it was launched just over a year ago. This represents just over 1% of the number of visitors during the same time period and so it only presents a useful indication of user experience and preferences.

The feedback has given us many rich insights into patients’ experience of PHIN’s website, as well as of their own healthcare journeys. It has also identified how patients use PHIN’s data and areas where PHIN can improve its offering, and we use this information in our website planning and reviews.

Some other questions we have asked and the corresponding user responses are below:

Have you consulted with any of the following before visiting the PHIN website?

 PHIN website survey responses, November 2021 – January 2023 n=489
PHIN website survey responses, November 2021 – January 2023 n=489

We were surprised that over a third of visitors to the website hadn’t consulted any other sources beforehand. It’s our ambition to develop the website so that all the information they may need will become available on this site, and user feedback is critically important to understanding their aspirations and expectations, but also how we manage these upfront.

Did you find the information you were looking for?

PHIN website survey responses November 2021 – January 2023 n=4,893

To date on average 55% of those visiting the website and completing the survey said that they did find the information they were looking for, whereas 45% said that they did not. We recognise that the relatively small number of visitors completing the survey represent a very small proportion of the total, and it’s possible that people are more likely to complete a survey when they have had a negative experience, though we also get very many people praising the usefulness of the information on the website as well.

The most commonly-reported area highlighted for improvement is greater completion of consultant and hospital profiles, both the legally-required fees information but also general information – consultant photos are popular, as well as contact details and patient reviews. We have identified a close match between negative visitor responses and gaps in the completeness of consultant and hospital profiles.

This shows that it is in the interests of everyone – patients, hospitals, consultants and PHIN – that these profiles are as complete and as helpful as possible.

Whilst many visitors say that the website has ‘really good information’, is ‘well-designed’ or ‘simple to use’, others find it more complex and we are working to make the search processes and navigation easier, particularly for those less familiar with healthcare and its language, as that can be an obstacle for some.

Other insights include:

  • Some patients have very simple information needs and primarily want reassurance that their proposed consultant has suitable qualifications and experience.
  • Other patients want detailed surgical success, reoperation and (where relevant) mortality rates for their chosen consultants. Whilst we would like to answer these questions, providing statistically-valid responses is a challenge particularly when not all consultants choose to publish their data, and information provided by hospitals on patient diagnoses and even procedures can be far from specific or complete.
  • As with so many other services and products for which information is now available on the internet, potential private patients are behaving more like customers exercising choice. We can only speculate how much the growth in websites such as PHIN’s is linked to the growth in self-pay, particularly when detailed fee information is available and comparable.
  • We’ve been pleasantly surprised by the numbers of people downloading our datasheets from the website – over 13,000 in the past year – which shows a hunger for detailed information.

What will you do next after visiting our website?

PHIN website survey responses, November 2021 – January 2023 n=2,767
PHIN website survey responses, November 2021 – January 2023 n=2,767

Over a third of respondents to the survey say that they will take a positive action – to book a consultation, speak with their insurer or GP – after visiting the website, and this proportion has improved in recent months – hopefully as a result of improvements we have made.

Another third use PHIN’s website as part of their research, and for the remaining third the website may have now answered their question or represent the end of their investigations at this time. Inevitably people have many different types of patient journey, from those new to private healthcare having a single intervention to others who are on stages of more complex pathways due to their health conditions. We are working to better understand these and make the information relevant to all patients, regardless of their healthcare knowledge or conditions.

How can you help make things even better for patients?

Many of our partners are supplying the required data, and we are very grateful for that. If your hospital isn’t doing so already, then supplying accurate and timely data will help us paint a more complete picture of the private healthcare sector, and help patients find the information they explicitly tell us they need to help them make more informed healthcare decisions.

More complete profiles attract more visitors and so can lead to more contacts and more customers, so it’s a virtuous circle. The same applies to our consultant profiles.

Google is constructed to reward both sides of reciprocal website links, so if you’re not already linking to PHIN please do so and more traffic should be directed back to your website – we have very good evidence that this significantly drives up visitor traffic for both providers and PHIN.

Working together we can achieve more transparency in the private healthcare sector and achieve the aims of the CMA Order.

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