Jason Gordon, Texthelp

Every day is a winding road (map)

Our Texthelper Jason provides an insight into the approaching roadmap deadline for CCG's. 

CCGs should be well into their digital roadmaps planning if they are to meet the deadline of June 2016 (previously April 2016). The building blocks for Paperless NHS are being put in place and decision-makers will soon be transitioning from planning to implementation mode. 

Whilst 90% of GPs in England are now reportedly offering online appointment booking and more patients are ordering repeat prescriptions digitally, we still have a long way to go.

A one-size-fits-all plan won’t work in a country with a population as diverse as the UK’s, hence why CCG’s were tasked with developing their own digital roadmaps to suit the unique needs of citizens in their areas.

With the finishing line just over the horizon,  CCGs progressing on this journey should already have identified that for their digital strategies to be successful, they need to be user-first, not NHS first, keeping a laser-focus on the people the digital strategies will serve.

As they think about implementing their strategies, health service users must be the starting point (and the middle and the end). Who will be using the digital services? What do they want?  What is the typical journey they go through and what gaps exist which affect the user’s experience? Who uses NHS services most and accordingly who will be impacted most as services move online? What unique needs do they have? 

True person centred care will also need to take into account the digital maturity and literacy levels of the people you’re trying to reach - after all if they can’t confidently use the internet or read well how are they going to access health information to make informed decisions about their care and treatment?

The greatest users of NHS services (the elderly, people with disabilities, those with chronic illnesses - who can also often be from lower socio-economic groups) are also the most likely to be affected by low digital skills and literacy challenges. It is these people who will miss the human touch most as digital services are introduced. This needs to be fully understood and accommodated within implementation plans.

The facts can present challenges: 1 in 10 UK citizens have dyslexia, 1 in 5 have low digital skills, 1.5 million people have learning difficulties, over 4 million speak English as a second language, almost 2 million have visual impairments*. 

A largely digital NHS is going to present significant challenges to many of these people. But by embracing the challenges as you travel with the service users on their journey, you can seek solutions to the inevitable problems. 

Solutions come in many shapes and sizes. Assistive and digital inclusion technology, translation software and text magnifiers can be included to overcome many of the issues these users face. Indeed NHS England recently added support technology, browsealoud to their website, improving accessibility through ‘read aloud’ and translation tools for users. 

Only by building accessibility considerations in from the ground up will you achieve a strategy that meets organisational needs, and keeps patients at the core. If you take  organisational goals as the starting point and then try to build in provision for specific patients needs retrospectively, problems will undoubtedly arise.

One last thought? Whilst your roadmaps might be taking shape nicely, it’s important to keep listening to your users! Their insight and feedback as you travel your defined digital road will ensure you keep on track in delivering a digital NHS that works.


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