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Digital communication helps young patient engagement

The study comes from the University of Warwick and King’s College London. The survey results signal to developers of health technology how they can assist with persuading young people to better engage with healthcare. There are several opportunities, for instance, with app development. Other areas to work on include the use of texts, emails, Skype and other digital communication methods.

The success that these initiatives can bring was the outcome of new research based on case studies drawn from 20 NHS specialist clinical teams. The young people surveyed were from England and Wales. The initial findings from the research have been published, although there will be further analyses to come.

There is a concern among healthcare professionals that young people, particularly those with long-term health conditions, tend to disengage from health services. The outcome is a reduction in health outcomes. Exploring new ways to address this, NHS clinicians have turned to digital communication tactics. How effective such digital health interventions are has been uncertain; however, the results from the new study are encouraging and signal that there is room for further initiatives.

The research is drawn from the period 2013-2016 (based on 165 interviews with people aged 16 to 24 years old), with the analysis published in 2017. Supporting the interviews with young people were a further 173 interviews with healthcare professionals. The research was led by Professor Frances Griffiths and Professor Jackie Sturt. The researchers conclude that there should be more widespread use of digital communication to improve health care experience.

In the research brief, the academics write: “Digital communication enables timely access for young people to the right clinician at the time when it can make a difference to how they manage their health condition. This is valued as an addition to traditional clinic appointments, and can engage those otherwise disengaged. It can enhance patient autonomy, empowerment and activation.”

This was in relation to the research question of whether healthcare of young people improves as a result of using digital communication. Among the answers was not only that digital communication was successful, it is what younger people want from health services. The questions that stem from this are what types of digital health interventions and how are these to be evaluated. Selection of optimal methods involves consideration of biomedical, behavioral, computing, and engineering factors. Active types of digital health intervention include information, psycho-education, personal stories, formal decision aids, behavior change support, interactions with healthcare professionals, self-assessment tools (like questionnaires, wearables, or monitors), and effective theory-based psychological interventions.

The research is published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research. The applicable research paper is titled “Timely Digital Patient-Clinician Communication in Specialist Clinical Services for Young People: A Mixed-Methods Study (The LYNC Study).”

If you’re interested in other digital health news, Digital Journal has profile three novel travel accessories for the modern business executive.

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Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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