Digital Health Skills: Building a Training Package

What was the question again?

To have an answer, you first need a question. A question helps to define the reach of the research. It develops understanding between stakeholders, which helps everyone to work together. It is tangible and specific, so you know when you have answered it. This is the one that we came up with:


The first step towards answering this question was speaking with people. Health professionals to be exact. In partnership with the Sheffield City Region Test Bed team, we arranged interviews with different members of staff. Their roles included Receptionists, Nurses (community and hospital-based), Consultants, GPs and Practice Managers.

  • Their perceptions of digital for themselves (work and personal use);
  • What they thought their patients felt about digital technology;
  • How they respond to different ways of learning or training.

Patient Focus Group

We spoke with patients and reflected back our findings from the interviews with health professionals. This enabled us to understand the common ground between patients and health professionals when it comes to engaging with and using digital technology. For health professionals to support patients in this way, they must focus on the common ground where the mutual benefits are clear.


We then brought health professionals, patients and our learning team together for a co-creation session to build on the insight from the interviews. This helped us to identify, once again, the fertile common ground on which we should focus our efforts when it comes to training health professionals.

Themes that emerged

Through all of this, a number of core themes emerged.

  1. Language: NHS staff and patients have said that the way digital is described can be confusing and off-putting.
  2. Peer support: NHS staff can help each other and create a culture of shared knowledge, rather than be ‘taught at’, and a number of examples of this were raised through the insight activities.
  3. Show don’t tell: During the consultation stage a number of individuals highlighted that specific examples and hands-on support help show both clinicians and patients the benefits of understanding and using digital.
  4. Personal touch: Every NHS staff member and patient is different. Though many share the same values, it is important to find a way to connect on a personal, one-to-one basis.
  5. Myth busting: Providing correct, positive information can help clinicians and patients change their perception of and willingness to try digital.
  6. Barriers: A number of barriers were highlighted throughout the insight activities for both NHS staff and patients. These included:
  • The time available to patient-facing staff
  • Staff’s experience of digital technology
  • Patient access e.g. cost
  • NHS culture barriers e.g. changes to ways of working, training, hierarchies

So, what do we do now?

So, was the training any good and was it the answer to the question?

In March 2018, once all of the workshops have taken place, we will set about understanding how well (if at all!) we’ve answered our initial question.

  1. Use the insight activities we have already undertaken to date as a baseline and to inform the first iteration of training materials and resources;
  2. Enable feedback to be given after each activity during the face to face training for the first two cohorts;
  3. Interview and/or survey training attendees one month after the face to face training to ascertain any behaviour change as a result of the training and to collect anecdotal evidence for impact on patients;
  4. Identify at least one case study (from NHS staff) that attended the training and, where possible, a patient case study of receiving support post-training;
  5. Detail and critique the methods employed to design the training;
  6. Make recommendations for what could/should happen next.

And finally…

Thanks to the Perfect Patient Pathway team for supporting the way we have worked as part of this programme so far. Their understanding of what we’re trying to achieve and the flexibility they have allowed to take this approach has been both refreshing and crucial in getting us to this point.



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Tom French

Tom French

Data, insight and questioning strategies for social purpose through open working | Founded Sheffield Data for Good + Data for Action | Musician