INCLUSIVE Digital Health Partnership Award!

16th July 2021

Back to blog

NHSX has recently released the Digital Health Partnership Award. The award has a focus on how digital products and services can support people to remotely monitor their health at home or in the community. In the midst of the pandemic, mHabitat got involved in the first round of this programme. This blog shares our story and hopefully some useful resources to help people with one very important question in the application! 

'5.5. Digital inclusion How will the initiative ensure that health inequalities are not compounded by this work? Is there learning from previous local work that can be applied to ensure inclusive digital transformation?'


Launching ‘Inclusive Digital Transformation

Last year we launched the Inclusive Digital Transformation programme aimed at working in partnership with others  to discover how we co-design inclusion into digital transformation into health and care. Our long term objective is to try to build the capability of the system to co-design inclusion into digital transformation and make it ‘how we do things around here’.

The very first partnership we formed was in the North East and Yorkshire (NEY) where we joined forces with Paul Rice (then Regional Director of Digital Transformation now Chief Digital and Information Officer at Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and Airedale NHS Foundation Trust ) and the Academic Health Science Networks in Yorkshire and Humber and the North East. We became part of the first NHSX funded programme to support people remotely where they live. 

During the early conversations and the application and interview process we learnt that whilst lots of regions were starting to talk about digital inclusion at that stage we were the only region at the time that put significant funded resources into it. 

Inclusive Digital Transformation and the Remote Monitoring Programme

As part of the NEY Remote Monitoring Programme we worked with patients, clinicians and care workers to explore inclusive and exclusive factors relating to innovative digital tools being scaled and spread across the regions. 

One example was AliveCor, (a mobile pulse checking device which assesses heart rate and rhythm to identify abnormalities). An incredible piece of kit which is being used by healthcare professionals in patients' homes. We learnt that whilst for many people it has potential to be a game changer, particularly in terms of dignity and patient experience, not all groups will be able to benefit. People with Raynaud's Disease, people without fingers and some people with Diabetes and Learning Disabilities are excluded from benefiting from this kit. Through co-design, we could also understand and highlight areas where the process and experience could be improved, e.g. providing an accessible and simple information sheet for patients explaining the process. 

At the same time we ran a pilot Inclusive Digital Transformation learning programme for people who work in digital transformation across the region and we set up a FutureNHS workspace repository for research, tools and other resources relating to inclusive digital transformation and digital inclusion. The learning programme included five x two hour sessions which covered why inclusive digital transformation is important and what it is, inclusive co-design, digital inclusion, digital practitioners and scale and spread. We brought in guests to share their insights and experiences and we enabled people to apply the learning to their own projects and work.

What did we learn? 

 Last year people in many different roles worked incredibly hard and at pace to get technology enabled care to the people in their homes and communities. They overcame the many complexities and challenges in the process, from the procurement of the technology to the implementation of innovation at a time when the health and care system was stressed and in crisis mode. 

We learnt digital exclusion was not well known or understood in the digital health innovation sector but that it has moved up the NHS priorities due to the triple whammy impact of health inequalities, Covid-19 and recognition that there are people who are not easily able to access digital for many complex reasons. 

Also highlighted was the value of co-designing from the beginning with patients, clinicians and other stakeholders because they really understand the nuances and barriers which might otherwise be missed. The end outcome will be better for their insight, and the innovation is more likely to be adopted and spread with champions and stories of success. 

We were able to share our experience in NEY with the rest of the regions through the Innovation Collaborative and we hope in doing so, influence others to consider who might be excluded in future digital transformation programmes. 

We were delighted to see our suggestion to add a question into the next round of funding asking applicants to consider how to ensure we don’t compound existing inequalities with digital transformation, taken up by NHSX, . 

If we all keep asking ourselves these two questions we are taking a big step towards ensuring we continue to provide a comprehensive service for all - a key principle of the NHS enshrined in the NHS Constitution. 

Useful information on inclusive digital transformation and digital inclusion

In the last year we have also worked with many different parts of the health and care system including ICS’s, NHSE, NHS Confed and Oxford University exploring different parts of the jigsaw and we have put together some information on ‘What Inclusive Digital Transformation’ looks like. 

You can find all our learning and lots of other research, resources and tools on the FutureNHS workspace so please register with FutureNHS and join our community there.

Five top tips to consider in your application:

  1. Ensure that senior leadership understand why inclusive digital transformation is important and value and champion it. 
  2. Reach out to other sector partners and assets in your area, they have expertise and resources which will be useful. Many local authorities are ahead of the game around digital inclusion and community assets are often the organisations who have relationships of trust with more excluded communities. Be creative and courageous and bring them into your 'Partnership' bids. 
  3. Take a bit of time to understand the need through extrapolating national data, e.g. Lloyds Bank Digital Consumer Index and ONS data (see links signposted on our FutureNHS workspace), through local insight research and co-design. 
  4. Recognise and seek to understand and overcome the multi-layered, complex and dynamic nature of the risk factors of not being able to easily access digitally enabled health and care. There are three categories of risk factors; life context, digital skills, confidence and motivation and accessibility and capability of the system. You will find poverty is often a root cause and that both staff and patients can be lacking in digital skills, confidence and motivation
  5. Understand that people are not the problem, they are the reason we are here and they are part of making the solution. Engage and involve them in the co-design of innovation. 

Thank you!

We wanted to take this opportunity to say thank you to Paul, Dave, Charlotte, Neville, Kate and the team in the NEY who took a chance on us and included us in the programme, to Breid and Tim and others in NHSX who took the time to listen to our insights and suggestions, and to the growing community of champions of Inclusive Digital Transformation across the health and care system.  

Good luck to everyone applying for funding this time around and we really hope everyone uses this opportunity to co-design inclusion into digital transformation. 

If you want to chat about any of the insights in this blog or about partnering up with us please get in touch with me or Pete Nuckley at roz.davies@nhs.net  peter.nuckley@nhs.net and do let us know if the FutureNHS workspace is useful or if there are any gaps or areas we could improve.