Top 5 Myths and Misconceptions about Multisource Feedback

Multisource Feedback (MSF) refers to the process of collecting customer or patient and colleague feedback, completing a self-assessment questionnaire, benchmarking and analysis, and reviewing and reflecting on a feedback evaluation report to identify personal and professional development opportunities.

MSF, also called a 360° feedback assessment, has become the standard for assessing for healthcare professionals and organisations in the United Kingdom (UK). The MSF method is common practice and used for developing insight into the strengths and weaknesses of individuals and organisations, identifying personal and professional development opportunities and ways to enhance team effectiveness, to improve the patient’s experience.

Multisource Feedback is a 360° assessment processDiagram displaying the multisource feedback cycle

MSF is an important component of:

  • The nationally mandated appraisal and revalidation process through which the General Medical Council (GMC) endorses a doctor’s licence to practice in the UK
  • The NHS patient experience improvement framework which is an evidence-based framework centred around the Care Quality Commission (CQC) key themes, and
  • Is more broadly standard practice in quality improvement programs across the healthcare sector in the UK and abroad.

CFEP has been at the forefront of developing and evaluating high quality patient and colleague feedback surveys for health professionals since 1995. Our goal has always been to support individuals and organisations aiming to make a difference to patients by improving safety, effectiveness and experience of care.

Over time, we’ve identified some common myths and misconceptions about MSF and have helped countless healthcare professionals move past those myths to make the most the evaluation and feedback process.

#1 – MSF will not impact individuals involved in the process

False! Any professional involved in a MSF process will be impacted, not only by the process itself but also potentially by the survey results.

Our experience is that most feedback reports are constructive and well received by the recipient but occasionally results may not be as expected.

Patient and colleague feedback are highly emotive and a badly managed MSF process can have significant and damaging consequences for the feedback recipient.

Having confidence in the quality of the evaluation report and guidance from trained and supportive professionals available throughout the process are both essential.

Ultimately the report should provide meaningful feedback which helps individuals identify their personal and professional development goals and helps practices and other organisations manage and meet their quality improvement goals.

#2 – MSF only identifies weaknesses

False! People who are new to the MSF process might assume that the feedback will only identify weaknesses but the process is designed to help individuals and organisations identify both strengths and weaknesses.

The objective is to gather specific feedback and provide an opportunity for evidence-based reflection, recognising strengths and enabling the identification of areas where there is room for improvement.

Our experience working with healthcare professionals – especially those in diagnostic roles – is that the first inclination is often to go straight to the negative. However, questionnaire interpretation is a more nuanced process which should be informed by robust data sets and benchmarking.

We recommend no quick assumptions should be made from lower scores until the possible reasons have been explored. Some of the more common reasons include workload and staff shortages and lack of technical support or training, through to larger issues around team failures and cultural issues. These topics may be suitable for discussion and reflection with a trusted colleague.

#3 – Interpreting MSF results is simple

False! Evaluating feedback can be relatively simple and straightforward when self-assessment ratings matches feedback provided by both patients and colleagues. However, it’s not uncommon for there to be a mismatch in these responses.

When there is a significant mismatch in ratings, it often means the recipient of this feedback is probably less effective in that area. And when the feedback ratings are high and in agreement, effectiveness is generally also high. Interestingly, research has consistently shown that lower-scoring participants are overly confident while higher-scoring participants are overly critical.

Again, robust data sets and benchmarking combined with an audit by a skilled data administrator and reports specialist will deliver a balanced report that is based in fact and provided in a manner which is supportive of continuing personal and professional development.

#4 – Receiving the MSF report is the end of the process

False! No matter how good the survey and evaluation process, MSF is just a tool and just one step in a quality improvement journey.

While the MSF process is designed to provide a balanced view of the capabilities of individuals and organisations involved it is, of course, part of an ongoing process of feedback, measurement and improvement.

A deeper reflection and discussion with colleagues following receipt of the feedback evaluation report may result in altering personal and profession learning goals, for example. Or identify new areas to focus on in terms of patient experience in your practice.

Meeting the demands placed on healthcare professionals in the UK can be a challenge. An efficient MSF process is critical, as is finding supportive experts to help guide you through the feedback process. This enables you to identify and address the improvement opportunities as quickly as possible.

#5 – All MSF evaluation tools are the same

False! It should go without saying that many of the MSF tools used by management consultants and People and Culture or Human Resources departments are not the best tools for healthcare professionals.

Doctors and clinicians, nurses and nurse practitioners, pharmacists, practice managers, allied health and other healthcare professionals function in a unique environment where patient safety and experience of care is paramount.

A badly managed MSF process can be worse than useless – it can be damaging. At CFEP we take that responsibility seriously. Our core questionnaires have been carefully developed from an academic background specifically focused on improving patient care, ensuring that all reported information is useful and meaningful.

We have an impressive track record for our work on questionnaire and feedback projects with the GMC, Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) and on the DHSC Quality and Outcomes Framework, for example.

A little time invested in desktop research prior to beginning the MSF process could save you or your organisation time and effort and provide a much more valuable tool to use in your continual improvement journey.

Bonus myth – UK doctors must use the GMC questionnaire for patient and colleague feedback

False! There is no requirement to use the GMC questionnaires.

The Royal College of General Practitioners advises:

There is no GMC requirement to use the GMC questionnaires. They are not suitable for all patient or client groups, or accessible to all. There may be better tools for your circumstances, such as a very specific scope of practice or a hard to reach group. 

More information and guidance on the GMC requirement is available from the RCGP website.

There are many options available to you when it comes to choosing the right MSF process. Please get in touch if you have questions related to practice, patient and colleague surveys. We’re the experts in healthcare surveys and we’d be happy to answer your questions.