Insights in Telehealth and Care Technology

An ageing society demands innovative thinking to reshape our future healthcare. Technology and self-management are widely considered to play a key role in changing how health services are delivered. Consequently there is a requirement to better understand the lived experience of diverse users of current technology and telehealth equipment, particularly the experiences of individuals who are currently under-represented in this research area (e.g. people from BME communities). This understanding is necessary to inform the design of digital health products and services, particularly as wider evidence would also suggest that one of the main barriers to user-acceptance of devices is poor design of these products (Bentley et al 2013, Foster et al 2015).

 

It has been suggested that one major contributing factor to the unsatisfactory design of telecare products is that they do not typically involve users in design processes (Hanson et al 2010) However when peple are engaged this can lead to important design considerations. Many of these considerations move beyond traditional notions of improving usability. For whilst the material features of technologies – dimensions, shape, colour, durability, size of buttons have a powerful influence on whether and how technologies are used it is important to remember that digital goods also have a cultural meaning. As Greenhalgh et al highlight ‘some such as ipads symbolishe status, independence, modernity and youth; others such as alarms or incontinence detectors may symbolise precisely the opposite cultural phenomena.” (Greenhalgh et al 2013)

 

Insights in Telehealth and Care Technology (InTaCT) develops and applies creative participatory methods and approaches to engage people who are frequently under-represented in theelhealth/telecare research by virtue of their age, ethnicity or socio-economic status. The aim of the research is to explore inequalities in telehealth and care technologieis and identify and creatively challenge cultural barriers to adoption.

 

Phase one of the study has sought to build understanding of end users attitudes to technology in everyday life and how it might be most appropriately adopted to support their personal healthcare.

In order to do this the first phase of the study has included:

·         A review of the design literature to identify studies specifically relating to the principles/requirements/considerations in designing telehealth and telecare products

·         Field visits and interviews with national and international experts in the field to help in the identification of case studies that can help to inform the research

·         Facilitation of a series of participatory research workshops utilising a critical artefact methodology to build understanding of the factors end-users from diverse communities identify as being important in the design of digital health devices

Findings of the first phase of the study have been reported through conference presentations, journal articles and book chapters (three are currently in press).

To date our research has highlighted the value of ‘thinking with things’ as a method to build undestanding of the factors end users identify as being important in the design of digital health technologies. Phase two of the study will now extend the critical artefact methodology and develop a digital platform for data collection. In parallel to this we will also commence a further ethnographic study working with a community with high-socio-economic needs.