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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.

Watch Prof Frances Griffiths discuss the project and some key findings HERE.

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.

Have a 'First Look' at the scientific summary of the project.

In April 2017, we published the paper, Timely digital patient-clinician communication in specialist NHS clinical services serving young people: findings from a mixed methods study (The LYNC study) in the Journal of Medical Internet Research.

Going Digital

Additional funding was secured from the King’s Cultural Institute to develop a collaboration between the research teams at Kings College London and Warwick Medical School with Face Front Inclusive Theatre Company who are specialists in forum theatre.

In forum theatre a short play is performed to an audience in which a central main character faces a difficulty. The audience relates to this difficulty due to shared experiences. When the play finishes, audience members share ideas with the actors. Ideas are used to replay parts of the story generating a creative debate in which actors and audience together explore alternative solutions to the character's difficulty. Face Front used the LYNC interview data from young people and health professionals, talked with the LYNC researchers and clinical specialist and developed short plays based on the evidence. The plays tell the stories of Sophie, 17yrs with type 1 diabetes and Abdul, 21yrs with depression. The plays depict some life events and decisions that Sophie and Abdul have to make as they manage their long term condition independently. The stories were filmed and are available for use by anyone with an interest. They can be used as a teaching aid to enable health professionals and people living with a long term condition to reflect on the opportunities and safeguards required when planning for digital consulting in health care.

Watch Sophie's story HERE.

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Watch Abdul's story HERE.

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On Dec 13th 2016 we co-produced a digital forum theatre event with an online audience of thirty people with an interest in long term conditions from a personal or professional perspective. The 2 hour event was live hosted by Face Front with members of the research team onsite alongside the actors in character. The films set up the complexities of health care management for these young people. Following each film there was online discussion using instant messaging, microphones and webcams to develop some digital communication solutions between participants and actors, participants and participants and participants and researchers. Participant attitudes were evaluated during and immediately following the event and 8 weeks post-event. A synopsis of the event can be viewed HERE.

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.

Project presentations

In 2016, we presented some early findings and lessons at The Kings Fund Digital Health and Care Congress:

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.

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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.

Watch the stories of Sophie, 17yrs with type 1 diabetes and Abdul, 21yrs with depression, as they manage their long term conditions independently (co-developed with Face Front Inclusive Theatre Company).

The 'First Look' scientific summary of the project is now available.

Watch Prof Frances Griffiths talking about the LYNC study.

Read our article on the value of timely digital consulting.

LYNC in the Media

Digital communication helps young patient engagement by Tim Sandle, Digital Communication (12/08/2017).

Digital communication improves young patient engagement, according to new study. Newswise (06/07/2017).

Digital communication improves young patient engagement. Healthnewsdigest.com (06/07/2017).

Digital communication can improve health care experience of younger patients. Dentalcliniclist (06/07/2017).

Digital communication improves young patient engagement, according to new study. Science Daily (05/07/2017)

Digital communication improves young patient engagement, according to new study. Bioengineer (05/07/2017)

Digital communication improves young patient engagement, according to new study. Dotemirates (05/07/2017).

Digital communication can improve health care experience of younger patients. News Medical (05/07/2017)

Digital communication improves young patient engagement, according to new study. Alpha Galilieo (05/07/2017).

Responsabiliser les jeunes sur leur santé grâce à la communication digitale par Mathilde Ledieu, Top Santé (05/07/2017).

Digital communication improves young patient engagement, according to new study. Eurekalert! (05/07/2017)

Prof Frances Griffiths discusses how digital consulting can alleviate patient anxiety and complement face-to-face communication with Trish Adudu on The Breakfast Show, BBC Coventry and Warwickshire Radio (05/07/2017). Listen from 1:49:48 onwards.

Digital communication improves young patient engagement, according to new study by Nicola Jones, Medicalxpress.com (04/07/2017).

Digital communication improves young patient engagement, according to new study. My Science (04/07/2017).

Texting young patients improves engagement with specialist services by Nick Huber, Nursing Services (04/07/2017).

Digital communication improves young patient engagement, according to new study. University of Warwick Press release (04/07/2017).