Widening Digital Participation – how far have we come?

By Nicola Gill, 5 September 2018

Elderly people being shown how to access healthcare info on a laptop

Incredibly, we are now a year and half into the delivery of phase two of the Widening Digital Participation (WDP) programme and our partnership with Good Things Foundation. In my last blog we were just getting things started, so it feels like a good time to look back and see if we’ve got to where we wanted to be. The answer is definitely yes.

Our biggest ambition and mountain to climb was the development and delivery of 20 digital inclusion pathfinder projects.  We set out to learn more about the barriers to uptake of digital health tech for the most excluded and furthest away – starting with a blank sheet. 

All over England, we’ve been working in partnership with patients and their clinicians to understand their needs and to find innovative new ways of overcoming these challenges. I think we’ve managed to achieve all those goals… and then some! 

Thirteen of these year-long pilot projects are now up and running.  We’ve just finished the evaluation of the first two and published a ‘How to’ guide for each based on our findings – the good and the bad! These guides give practical steps on things to do (and more importantly don’t do) to reach digitally excluded people. For example, our first two guides are about how to use social prescribing to get patients using digital health tools and how to support young people with mental health problems using apps. Some of the key things that we are learning is that the barriers are varied and complex – there’s no one solution. This is why the partnership approach works so well – each partner can help tackle each of the barriers whether that’s providing access to kit, digital skills training or just providing the motivation!

As planned, we are sharing all of the insights and learnings that we’re gathering from the pathfinder work and we’re publishing it on our website here.  Amongst other topics, you can read more about how we’re improving breast cancer outcomes in Stoke using social media; improving maternity outcomes for the travelling community in Dorset and improving accessibility of health information for people with hearing and visual impairments in Kirklees

Our other big ambition was to write and publish a guide to digital inclusion for commissioners and designers of digital health services.  Part of the problem we have is that people don’t often know what we mean by digital inclusion, why it’s important  and how they can implement it. 

So, we decided to put all of our knowledge and experience over the last five years of the programme into a practical step-by-step guide. Commissioners and digital health teams everywhere can now use the guide to ensure that their services and tools are designed and delivered, with the needs of the furthest in mind.

Bob Gann (our digital inclusion guru) delivered the Digital Inclusion Guide for Health & Care in May this year and the feedback has been amazing. So much so that we’ve been invited to develop it into a learning module for the NHS Digital Academy course in November. 

You can learn more about the guide and how to deliver digital inclusion projects  at our Digital Inclusion Masterclass at NHS Expo this year. So come join us at PUU7 from 2.15-3:15pm on 5 September. 

Myself, Bob and Pete Nuckley from Good Things Foundation will be sharing our insights on the dos and don’ts for developing digital inclusion projects.

We’ll also have Gina Newman, a breast screening practitioner from Staffordshire, talking about how her organisation has used social media to reach excluded groups and the incredible outcomes they’ve had. See you there!