We’re using pilots to design new approaches to digital inclusion in healthcare

24 Apr 2017 | Written by Bea Karol Burks

Good Things Foundation reached 387,000 people and saved £6m of NHS spending with the Widening Digital Participation programme we ran with NHS England between 2013 and 2016. It was a groundbreaking programme, working across the country to deliver digital skills and digital champion training to hundreds of thousands of people.

Now we’re back for phase 2 of the programme and this time we’re running it a little differently.

Phase 1 was about volume and scale, introducing an awareness of digital skills into healthcare. Phase 2 is about piloting targeted approaches to digital inclusion for different audiences that fit within existing healthcare provision. It’s also about focusing and tailoring approaches for the ‘furthest first’ — or hardest to reach.

This means we’re running 20 Pathfinders over 3 years to design how, when and where digital inclusion is important to different patient groups. One pathfinder might pioneer an approach to digital inclusion for young people with lived experience of mental health. Another might look at older people with mobility difficulties.

We’re working with Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) to design digital inclusion into the work they already do, and joining up with Online Centres and other community health partners to encourage an approach that’s embedded in communities. A large part of this project is focused on co-design with providers and patients.

Piloting gives us the time and evidence to really know if an approach is working. We’ll start off with an idea of how an approach to digital inclusion might work. Through running it on the ground, seeing how well it works for patients and practitioners, and making improvements as we learn, we’ll know that the service we’re providing is the best we can offer.

At the end of the 3 years we’ll have 20 models for digital inclusion to suit different patient groups and different health outcomes. The models will include in-depth user research and insight, iterations and explanations of changes to the model — as well as a toolkit and guide to adopting the model in different places and contexts. It’ll make it easy for CCGs and community healthcare groups to pick tried and tested approaches that will work for them and their objectives.

In doing so we think we can make a big impact not just on knowing that technology in healthcare can help patients and the NHS, but knowing why digital works, for whom and in what way.