ONCALLbuddy: Using digital innovation to support workforce changes in response to COVID-19

Purpose

The response to COVID-19 has placed unprecedented demands on the physiotherapy workforce. Changing models of care have required physiotherapists to work across new models of care. In many cases, staff have returned to respiratory and critical care roles. Although many organisations have provided staff training where required, there is no widely available, easy to access resource, that summarises the knowledge and skills required to support these workforce changes. The aim of the ONCALLbuddy project was to provide physiotherapy staff with easy access to knowledge and information to support the changes in roles and clinical requirements.

Within the first week the app had over 7,000 users.
There were users from 31 countries across 13 different first languages.

Approach

ONCALLbuddy used a disruptive digital product innovation process to create a mobile app. This app contained information regarding conditions, assessment, treatment, and COVID-19 specific links. This educational resource was developed by two NHS England Clinical Entrepreneurs in less than two weeks using widely available, free, web-based software. The app was shared with physiotherapists using professional networks, social media, and an email distribution list.

Outcomes

Results: Within the first week the app had over 7,000 users. There were users from 31 countries across 13 different first languages. There were over 23,000 page views. Feedback captured from email and social media was positive and guided the development of the content of ONCALLbuddy. Users report that the app is clear and easy to navigate and that the content is pitched at the right level. Further formal user feedback will continue as the app develops and the user base increases.

Conclusion(s): Whilst there seems to be an interest for ONCALLbuddy on an ongoing basis, the current COVID-19 pandemic provided an opportunity to reach an audience at speed. Since its launch ONCALLbuddy has received international interest with downloads and users across the globe. Whilst there may be some differences in physiotherapy practice between countries there is scope to develop the app for the international healthcare market. Additionally, ONCALLbuddy has been of interest to other healthcare professionals beyond physiotherapy, and has the potential to become an app for MDT members as well as patients.

Cost and savings

The original work contained in this abstract was unfunded. The project has since received support (funding and promotion) from Health Education England and support (promotion) from the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy.

Implications

The launch of the app was announced on social media a few days prior to launch. This allowed the generation of a database of potential users, which was vital in understanding if there was a demand for ONCALLbuddy. The mobilisation of existing networks to promote the launch of the app led to our conversations with HEE and the CSP about sponsorship and support. There is an anticipated ongoing demand and market for ONCALLbuddy. There are approximately 70,000 physiotherapists registered in the UK. The number of student places available has seen a year on year increase with the change in funding structure seeing a 41% increase in places in 2019/20. There are currently 47 universities in the UK providing physiotherapy courses. ONCALLbuddy would be of use to all new graduates and physiotherapy students meaning there will be an ongoing demand for the app

Top three learning points

No further information. 

Funding acknowledgements

The original work contained in this abstract was unfunded. The project has since received support (funding and promotion) from Health Education England and support (promotion) from the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy.