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Improving health outcomes for young people with long-term conditions: The role of digital communication in current and future patient-clinical communication for NHS providers of specialist clinical services (the LYNC Study)

What is the LYNC Study?

In this study, we looked at how digital technologies (email, mobile phone calls, text messages, Voice over Internet Protocol) are being used for clinical communications between health professionals and patients. We focussed on young people aged 16-24 years receiving specialist care for a range of long- term health conditions, and their clinical teams.

Overtime, young people living with diabetes, cystic fibrosis, sickle cell and other long-term health conditions may disengage from health services, thereby negatively affecting their health and burdening the health system. We investigated whether and how their engagement can be improved through the use of digital clinical communications, and so improve their health outcomes.

Young people are prolific users of digital communications, including for healthcare. Innovative clinicians in the UK National Health Service (NHS) have been using digital communications in an effort to engage and retain this generation of digitally-connected patients. From these early adopters and users of technologies, we have been learning how, why and with what effect digital, clinical communications can be used with young people and their clinical teams in the NHS.

The study so far

In 2015-2016, we carried out research with 20 clinical teams from across England and Wales, including teams using digital communication extensively, and those using it only occasionally. We interviewed 165 patients, 13 parents, 173 clinical team members and 16 Information Governance Specialists. We also carried out direct observations, examined clinic policies and guidelines, and reviewed available literature.

Data were analysed for: what works for whom, where, when and why, and for ethical and safety issues. Read some of our early findings and lessons, presented at The Kings Fund Digital Health and Care Congress in 2016:

Going Digital

In 2016, we worked with Face Front Inclusive Theatre to co-create and co-produce a film using an interactive theatre production to address the possibilities of digital communication about clinical matters such as symptoms, drug regimes, and emotional distress. The production was filmed and live-streamed online. We then facilitated interactive sessions with clinicians and young people using forum theatre, as a way of amplifying the impact of the film.

LYNC in 2017: What are we doing now?

Assessing impact

We are assessing the impact and use of the Quick Reference e-book and Topic Guides, particularly but not exclusively for the UK NHS.

Developing Digital Consultation Guidance

We are also working with a midlands-based network of NHS-based digital clinical communication innovators to develop Digital Consultation Guidance for NHS practitioners approved by NHS Digital (formerly HSCIC) and for use across the NHS. Our aim is to support the delivery of digital clinical communications against these guidelines.

The LYNC Collaboration

The study has been a collaboration between Warwick Medical School; King’s College London; University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire; Health and Social Care Information Centre; and King’s Health Partners, led by:

Prof Frances Griffiths (Joint Principal Investigator, WMS, University of Warwick)

Prof Jackie Sturt (Joint Principal Investigator, King's College London)

The LYNC Study was funded by the UK National Institute of Health Research Health Services and Delivery Research (HS&DR) Programme.

 LYNC partners


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Project outputs

We have developed our findings into a Quick Reference e-book with 10 Topic Guides for patients and professionals who are using or considering the use of digital communication on clinical matters. The e-book and Topic Guides are free to download.