This is part one of a series of three posts in which we will explore the concept of co-production and explain how this aligns itself to agile software development in healthcare technology design.
Already a valuable and productive approach to progressing ways of working within the public sector, it seems only natural that healthcare tech providers adopt the values of co-production when developing technological solutions.
What Is Co-production?
“Co-production is a key concept in the development of public services. It has the potential to make an important contribution to all of the big challenges that face care services” – Scie.org
According to research by the Health Evaluation Team at Coventry University, as part of The Health Foundation, “Collaborative co-production requires users to be experts in their own circumstances and capable of making decisions, while professionals must move from being fixers to facilitators. To be truly transformative, co-production requires a relocation of power towards service users. This necessitates new relationships with front-line professionals who need training to be empowered to take on these new roles”
In terms of healthcare, patients are much more than recipients of care, and can actually contribute to a high level of service throughout the experience. Patient empowerment is an integral part of delivering high-quality and efficient service as it allows the patient to feel confident and in control. At the same time, empowerment can also be applied to front-line staff who deal with high volumes of patients everyday. We discussed the benefits of promoting patient empowerment in our previous post How Healthcare Technology Providers Can Reach More People.
The Benefits of Co-production
- Creates better services for people – patients and users get the opportunity to have input in their care and service providers receive regular feedback to use to make necessary improvements
- Improved sense of community – helps people work better collectively
- Great results encourage other services to work together more often
- Works similarly to the “agile approach” as it encourages users to work in simpler yet innovative ways to produce better results
The Challenges of Co-production
- Opposition from people involved in the project could slow down progress
- Diverse views – partners from all walks of life and with different experiences might have different ideas about how the end product or service should look
- Trying to produce something that everybody agrees on may result in the project moving too far beyond the brief and not actually fulfilling the original idea
Co-production creates a collaborative eco-system in which all parties receive a balanced “give and get”. Similarly, “agile Development” is a process of “learning by doing” in which partners contribute their needs, and solutions are regularly fed back to promote a healthy and scheduled timeline of productivity. In part two of our co-production series, we will explore further the benefits and challenges of agile development and how co-production works in harmony with this teamwork-driven approach to working.
Last week we visited the Nursing and Midwifery School at Staffordshire University to road-test our mobile e-learning ideas and technologies. We introduced Destiny MOOC e-learning courses designed specifically for mobile to students to expand their learning opportunities and encourage interaction with online courses via mobile.
As introduced in a previous blog post, the European Union-funded Erasmus+ Destiny project is an EU-wide MOOC platform, of which Bitjam is a partner. MOOCs – or Massive Open Online Courses – offer a novel way to provide everyone and anyone access to online education. The Destiny MOOC learning management system is based on the popular Moodle with a key focus on mobile accessibility. In case you missed it, Moodle is a learning platform designed to provide educators, administrators and learners with a single robust, secure and integrated system to create personalised learning environments.
The students who took part in the user testing were very positive about the idea around compact mobile learning experiences. One student reflected “This means I can learn while I’m on the train, neat!!”
Bitjam partnered with Erasmus+ on the Destiny Project as it provided an opportunity to integrate healthcare and education resources to expand the use of technology in the public sector. E-learning courses made purely for mobile are shaping the future of education as they’re easy to use, accessible to all and provide tools for learning that can be carried around in pockets and used on the go. Destiny is particularly useful for health and social care learning as it’s also a noticeboard for news and updates, such as details about local relevant study clubs.
Bitjam’s role has ranged from gathering and analysing MOOC data, developing the web platform and recently developing the Mobile friendly learning management system. Creating a platform that is easy to navigate and creates a strong UX has been crucial to the success of this project.
We are constantly hearing that digital services are “the future”, but in actual fact we are already fully immersed in a digital life. Technology lives in our pockets, directs us round the country, gives us access to knowledge within micro seconds. We are an incredibly digitally knowledgeable species already.
Or are we? It’s easy to perceive that “everybody” has access to a computer, the internet and smart devices. Unfortunately we’re often distracted by our own access to such tools that we fail to notice that external factors such as money, education and time can have a profoundly negative effect on people’s digital literacy.
Are We All As Digitally Literate As We Appear?
Digital literacy refers to knowledge and skills with digital devices such as computers, smartphones and tablets.
16% of UK adults are classed as “functionally illiterate”, meaning they would be unable to pass a GCSE. 50% of people can’t do basic maths. These are the very basic skills most of you will have learned at an early age, and have been taught in schools for centuries. Yet 16% is an alarming proportion of the population. Imagine then that a modern skill set such as digital capabilities becoming a part of everyday life, and people having to learn them independently. Take into consideration how fast-paced and constantly-changing digital experiences are too.
Research published by the BBC has found that 21% of Britain’s population lack the basic digital skills and capabilities required to realise the benefits of the internet.
Even most people who have access to smart devices are lacking in the skills required to use them to their full potential.
Good software design should address the digital know-how of it’s potential users or else there is a high risk of limited usage of the technologies. Some of the main areas to take notice are authentication (how the user signs up and/or logging in), general user interface design, personalisation options and the clarity in the support documentation.
Digital Inclusion Strategy
The government have a digital inclusion strategy in place to ensure everyone who can be is online by 2020. They have identified 4 main kinds of challenge faced to achieving results:
- access – the ability to actually go online and connect to the internet
- skills – to be able to use the internet
- motivation – knowing the reasons why using the internet is a good thing
- trust – a fear of crime, or not knowing where to start to go online
According to the BBC Media Literacy study, 21% of people can’t use the web. 14% of people don’t have internet access at all, so 7% do have internet access but don’t use it in ways that benefit them day to day.
Addressing Digital Literacy
So how can this be combatted? There have been a number of projects and programmes that aim to address digital literacy, here are a few:
- Providing free access at public libraries
- Creating DotEveryone – the UK’s digital skills alliance designed to inspire people and organisations who want to help others build their digital capability
- The Broadband Delivery UK Programme aims to bring high speed broadband access to 95% of homes by December 2017
- Motivating users to go online by teaching them the benefits of job search software such as Universal Jobmatch, rather than simply pushing them into it
- Get Safe Online is a scheme which helps people keep themselves safe against the threat of fraud, identity theft, viruses and many other online security issues
- WEA (Workers Educational Association) are a unique adult education provider working with hundreds of organisations at local, regional and national levels. Courses include IT for Beginners, covering the use of computers, mobile devices and social media.
It’s paramount that digital healthcare providers work with adult community learning regarding digital literacy. However the challenge of usability needs to be tackled at the design stage using co-production as the process. The key to success is in the quality of the relationship between the partners in each project, and at bitjam we work in a highly collaborative manner with clients and stakeholders to research and develop innovative solutions that meet their needs.