Pioneering new patient project bags £30k national award

hands holding smart phones to show Digital interventions for behaviour change

Staff working on a new patient project at Reading’s Royal Berkshire Hospital (RBH) have been rewarded with a £30k national award after impressing the judges with their ideas.

The team, which includes Cognitant, an Oxford-based health tech company, and members from the RBH, is working with kidney patients for this project. The team was one of 20 winners chosen by the Q Exchange’s £600,000 funding programme, funded by the Health Foundation and NHS Improvement.

The funds will be spent on a pilot aimed at finding more effective and efficient ways of communicating health and self-care information to patients. This involves moving away from traditional printed leaflets, towards digital systems and immersive content, including virtual reality.

As part of the pilot, 90 patients with chronic kidney disease will receive information in a range of ways – a printed leaflet, digitised text leaflet or a short immersive, interactive animation which they can view on their smartphone or tablet. Medics will then test how well the patients have accessed, understood and acted on the health information delivered through the three different channels.

Healthcare professionals often struggle to explain complex health information to patients in time-limited appointments at which they give patients leaflets to read. However, research has shown that 47% of adults have problems understanding a lot of health information and 61% of people with long term health conditions have ‘limited’ health literacy. This problem is made worse when patients have virtual consultations and can’t be handed leaflets to take away and read.

Poorly informed patients are less likely to follow advice and medication recommended by clinicians, which can have a knock on effect on their health, putting greater financial strains on health services as a result.

The pilot, which starts in early 2020, is part of a major transformation programme at the RBH Outpatients Department. This is aimed at reducing the number of people having to attend hospital for follow up appointments that can instead now be done virtually on patient’s mobile devices from their home or workplace. The transformation programme will not only make life easier for patients, but will also have major financial, social and environmental benefits for local health services and communities.

Dr Emma Vaux, Consultant Nephrologist at the RBH, said: “The aim of our pilot is to evaluate how patients best understand and want to consume health information, and also look at ways of delivering this information digitally.

“Over the last 18 months we’ve made big changes to the way patients with kidney disease are cared for, adopting virtual services and supporting them more in the community. This means 30% of new outpatient appointments can be avoided and a further 40% can be managed differently.

“The pilot will enable patients and carers to access information in a style and content that works best for them, helps them understand more about their condition and how to access the right support.”

Dr. Tim Ringrose, CEO of Cognitant, said: “This award is a great honour and a testimony to the great work and foresight of the Royal Berkshire Hospital. The upcoming project will demonstrate a new approach to allow kidney disease patients to understand both their health situation and the treatments recommended to them in the hope of bridging the information gap.”<