The Innovations in Physiotherapy database is an online platform of quality assured examples that showcase innovation.
Joe Head, head of operations at IPRS Health, talks about developing app and web-based technology to provide patients with education and advice on musculoskeletal and mental health issues
What were the service drivers for initiating the project?
The main driver was consistent feedback from patients and clients highlighting the need for a streamlined digital solution that could provide evidence-based education and remote clinical support. This was supported by emerging evidence showing patients would like to use digital healthcare services, as long as those services meet their needs and provide the level of quality they expected. Technology was advancing and the use of apps and visual calls was becoming more mainstream, so this project provided the natural extension in a healthcare setting.
How does this work link to the NHS Long Term Plan and AHP Digital Framework?
The Long Term Plan [for England] strongly supports IPRS Health’s move to a digital approach.
As the NHS aims over the next five years to give every patient the right to online GP consultations, this will normalise our digital solution and improve engagement.
The drive for improving prevention of avoidable or worsening health problems further supports our educational approach to help patients understand how they can effectively self-manage their own conditions and improve their general health through lifestyle changes. IPRS Health’s aim to provide the right support at the right time in the way service users best engage, whether that be face to face or digitally, is echoed across recent frameworks.
How do you ensure all webinar, app and website content remains up-to-date with the most current clinical evidence?
A clinical lead is assigned to monitor and update the content, drawing on the diverse knowledge and skillset within the multidisciplinary team. IPRS Health champion research and support employees through master’s and PhD research, which helps us access the latest evidence. Webinars and blogs are created through ongoing review of the most prevalent issues treated on a day-to-day basis. This ensures we address the needs of the varying patient populations we work with. We link these topics in with national health programmes or relevant social activities such as Rugby Six Nations, Wimbledon and the London Marathon. By doing so, we’ve attracted wider interest and fostered greater engagement.
How do you test the cyber security of the visual triage app or web-based technology aspect of the service?
The visual triage component of our service is supported by an app supplier who controls and monitors its internal cyber security. Our website and blog are supported by an external website development team and enhanced by our own in-house system development team. An external service provider monitors the effectiveness of all our security systems. Lastly, annual penetration testing is completed by an external supplier and reviewed by an external auditor in line with best practice standards for information security management.
Do clinicians provide low-technology solutions (for example leaflets) for those patients unable/unwilling to access digital content?
Low-technology solutions including leaflets are still available. Despite the majority of patients now looking to receive digital content it’s important to provide high level education in all forms to meet patient expectations and to foster high levels of engagement.
What advice would you give someone interested in working on a similar project?
Never be afraid to ask the silly question. The world of development is fast paced and something that seems impossible may just be possible.
It’s essential to connect with others working in the same area to share success and failures and to help build a learning culture. CSP members can benefit from reaching out to working groups such as the CSP’s new digital and informatics physiotherapy group at firstname.lastname@example.org
Interested in innovating?
Check the Innovations in Physiotherapy database at innovations.csp.org.uk for more practical examples and guidance on how to submit your own work
- For information on Joe Head’s ‘The digital future of physiotherapy’ go to innovations.csp.org.uk and search for ‘digital’.
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