Staff working on a pioneering new patient project at Reading’s Royal Berkshire Hospital have clinched a £30k national award after impressing judges with their ideas.
The team, which includes members from the Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust and Cognitant, an Oxford-based health tech company, are working with kidney patients for this project. They will spend the funds on a pilot aimed at finding more effective and efficient ways of communicating health and self-care information with patients - moving away from traditional printed leaflets, and towards digital systems and immersive content, including some virtual reality content.
As part of the pilot, 90 patients with Chronic Kidney Disease will receive information in a range of ways – a printed leaflet, digitised text leaflet or a short immersive, interactive animation which they can view on their smartphone or tablet. Medics will then test how well the patients have accessed, understood and acted on the information delivered through the three different channels.
Healthcare professionals often struggle to explain complex information to patients in time-limited appointments at which they give patients leaflets to read. However, research has shown that 47 per cent of adults have problems understanding a lot of health information and 61 per cent of people with long term health conditions have ‘limited’ health literacy. And this problem is exacerbated when patients have virtual consultations and can’t be handed leaflets to take away and read.
Poorly informed patients are then less likely to follow advice and medication recommended by clinicians which can have a knock on effect on their health which then puts greater financial strains on health services.
Dr Emma Vaux, Consultant Nephrologist at the RBH, said: “The aim of our pilot is to evaluate how patients best understand and want to consume health information, and also look at ways of delivering this information digitally.
“Over the last 18 months we’ve made big changes to the way patients with kidney disease are cared for, adopting virtual services and supporting them more in the community. This means 30% of new outpatient appointments can be avoided and a further 40% can be managed differently.
“The pilot will enable patients and carers to access information in a style and content that works best for them, helps them understand more about their condition and how to access the right support, ” she added.
“We’re absolutely thrilled to have received funding from the Q Exchange Awards panel and for the really positive feedback we received from the judges when making their decision. They had 180 projects to consider and we were one of the 20 winners which is a great boost for all the team here.”
Dr. Tim Ringrose, CEO of Cognitant, said: "This award is a great honour and a testimony to the great work and foresight of the Royal Berkshire Hospital. New technology in the form of immersive content which is usable, accessible and reliable, has been proven to increase patient understanding of health and treatments. The upcoming project will demonstrate a new approach to allow kidney disease patients to understand both their health situation and the treatments recommended to them in the hope of bridging the information gap."
The pilot, which starts in early 2020, is part of a major transformation programme at the RBH Outpatients Department. This is aimed at reducing the number of people having to attend hospital for follow up appointments that can now be done virtually on patient’s mobile devices from their home or workplace. The transformation programme will not only make life easier for patients, but will also have major financial, social and environmental benefits for local health services and communities.