Being able to describe and evaluate the difference that digital and data-driven innovations make is essential to ensuring they contribute to a more efficient and helpful health and care system.

Health and social care services are under pressure like never before, with an ageing population, real time cuts in service and incredible demands as people live longer with more complex and long-term conditions. 

It’s not surprising that people are turning to digital and data-driven approaches as a way of improving services: they want to increase efficiencies and improve the experiences of using services and make sure people are involved in decisions that affect them. 

Digital tools offer promising potential solutions but they come with challenges too. They can be expensive to develop and hard to implement in real world settings, especially because they need to involve lots of people and systems.

So, when we are trying to understand if they bring the benefits we hope, it’s important to evaluate the interventions themselves (e.g. is a tool safe, effective and acceptable?), as well as the people driven processes around development and implementation (e.g. who needs to be involved, how do they feel about the innovation, what do they need to alter in response, and what are the risks and assumptions which underpin an approach?).

Being clear about change

At Matter of Focus, we believe it’s vital that people pursuing digital innovation in health and care settings carefully and clearly tell the story of the difference they would like to make to the people and communities they hope to help. 

Implementation is challenging in any area of health and social care, particularly when data and digital approaches are involved. To realise good outcomes for people and for systems, it’s important to understand the change processes and the different players that need to be involved at each stage. 

That’s one of the reasons we’ve been working increasingly with people seeking to change health and care services through digital approaches – helping them to describe the difference they want to make, and bring in data and feedback so they can understand whether it is working well and bringing the benefits they hope.

Our approach to evaluating digital innovation in health and care

Our approach to clarifying and evaluating digital approaches, informed by our work evaluating the impact of our own software OutNav, is suited to these kinds of relational (i.e. about people) digital services and projects, where simple measures of engaging with the technology or task success are not enough to understand the impact of the work. 

We have put our learning into practice in a range of key digital developments:

Digital Health and Social Care Innovation Centre (DHI)

We have been working with DHI as they take an embedded, outcome focused approach to evaluate three aspects of their work:

  • Moray Rural Centre of Excellence for Digital Health and Care
  • Digital Mental Health Innovation Cluster
  • Decision Support Programme

Transforming Local Systems Pathfinder Programme, Scottish Government

We supported this four-year programme, funded by Scottish Government’s Technology Enabled Care (TEC) Programme, Digital Health and Care Directorate (2019-2023). It aimed to help local partnerships to contribute to the transformation of local health and social care systems using digital technologies, shifting local delivery towards prevention and self-management. The Programme was delivered with four local pathfinders: 

  • NHS Highland
  • Midlothian HSCP
  • East Ayrshire HSCP
  • Aberdeen HSCP

As a learning partner, we provided the Pathfinders and National team with developmental evaluation support over three years since 2020.

  • To develop outcome maps (or theories of change)
  • Working in OutNav, supporting the project teams to capture their learning and assess their progress with the work.
  • We carried out a final evaluation of the programme, which is published here.

This resulted in a simple but robust framework to evaluate the effectiveness, sustainability and impact of digital health interventions. 

Health Technology Wales

Our work with Health Technology Wales has helped them map and track their strategic, national approach to the identification, appraisal and adoption of new health technologies into health and care settings across NHS Wales. 

In 2021, Health Technology Wales won the David Hailey Award for Best Impact Story for its approach to evaluating the impact of research into a treatment for multiple sclerosis. You can read a case study about our work with Health Technology Wales here.

Innovative Healthcare Delivery Programme

We supported the Innovative Healthcare Delivery Programme (IHDP) that seeks to fundamentally change the way data and analytics are used to drive improvement in health outcomes, by fostering new relationships between the NHS, industry, academia, and the third sector. They are using OutNav to set out and track progress of their key programmes. 

In November 2022, we attended Digital Health and Care Fest in Glasgow to share our work developing an evaluation framework for digital interventions.

If you would like to learn more about our work in this area, you can view our ePoster showcase on the Digital Health and Care Fest 2022 website.

If you are planning a digital project and would like a chat about how we can help you describe and evaluate the change you seek, please get in touch.

If you are planning a digital project and would like a chat about how OutNav could help, please get in touch.

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