Our team at Connected Nottinghamshire wanted to ensure we understood what mattered to our population, what challenges they faced and what tools they needed to support them to better manage their own health and care.
The team undertook an 18-month long public engagement programme – reaching out to people in a variety of settings and events to gather views that reflected the local demographics.
We did this by taking health and care to our people, rather than expecting them to come to us.
We began with the obvious starting point, talking to patients’ groups in health and care settings, sitting down in GP waiting rooms and holding stalls in hospital corridors to talk to people. However, we soon realised we needed to reach out to other sectors of the population that wouldn’t normally engage with us.
Visiting events such as beer festivals and hosting roadshows that attracted people from all walks of life was pivotal in our engagement mission.
In addition to this, reaching out to young people was also a must. We went to talk to students at Nottingham College in order to understand their wants, needs and preferences from digital health and care services.
This public engagement output, combined with our strategic vision, national policy and contractual requirement, enabled us to identify four key pillars required to provide effective public facing digital services to our population:
- Different types of consultation - We needed to offer different channels for consultation, not just telephone and video, but also secure messaging for instance.
- Information - Needed to be accessible, understandable and up to date and also be better targeted towards different patient groups and conditions. Digital access to information that people could store in one place and refer back to was key, and it needed to be from a trusted source.
- Community signposting - Signposting to on-the-doorstep community services was essential.
- Self-care and management - Self care and management of one’s own health needed to be actively promoted and made available. Providing access to key information such as test results, care plans and prescriptions, as well as the tools to enable them to input into their own health and care record. This included tracking and monitoring their own symptoms and conditions and connecting Technology Enabled Care devices.
After understanding what mattered to our population, the NHS App appeared to be the perfect ‘front door’ for public facing digital services; it provided patients with the ability to access their records, make GP appointments and order repeat prescriptions.
On top of this, the NHS App uses NHS login which provides a secure and re-usable way for people to access multiple health and social care services with a single login. NHS login can be used by the public to securely access their health and care information wherever they see the NHS login button.
Whilst this gave our population an easy method of interacting with their GP practice, to fully achieve our vision of integrating local services within the NHS App, we procured a personal health record solution through Patients Know Best to extend the functionality provided for primary care by the NHS App for all health and care organisations outside of primary care.
So far we have introduced digital support hubs on the high street, where we would support visitors on something they really wanted to learn, like online shopping.
We’re continuing to talk to people from Black Asian and Minority Ethnic communities and groups such as Belong Nottingham and the BME cancer communities. We will be creating surveys available in different languages through our health literacy work with the Patient Information Forum to find out what challenges and barriers they continue to face and how we can overcome them.
So far we have introduced digital support hubs on the high street, where we would support visitors on something they really wanted to learn, like online shopping. It didn’t matter that it wasn’t about digital health and care as we needed to support them with things that mattered to them in order to give them the confidence or skills to join the digital age.
In order to make significant change, we needed to support the up-skilling of our workforce so we established a Digital Champions Network and trained 50 digital ambassadors across a wide range of organisations, from both clinical and non-clinical backgrounds. All champions are passionate about promoting digital tools and support us in championing the NHS App to other members of staff and to patients.
As a result, we're also working with the community and voluntary sector to provide further support directly to communities that's scalable and more sustainable.
As part of our digital inclusion project, we funded a tablet lending scheme through our own digital and social inclusion budget that helped people who simply couldn’t afford their own. However, people had to have broadband to make use of them, so that was quite limiting. We also found it took a lot of time to teach people the basic skills of navigating the internet and using the tablet.
As a result, we’re also working with the community and voluntary sector to provide further support directly to communities that is scalable and more sustainable. We offer grants to the Council for Voluntary Service organisations who want to support their own local communities by improving their digital skills.
The work on gaining access to technology and broadband for the digitally excluded continues.
The impact of lockdown continues and with it, the need to accelerate the use of the app as far as we possibly can.