Michael Edelstein

Abstracts

1 Feasibility of Implementing Digital Healthcare Technologies to Prevent Disease: A Mixed-Methods Evaluation of a Digital Intervention Piloted in the National Health Service

Authors: Rosie Cooper, Tracey Chantler, Ellen Pringle, Sadie Bell, Emily Edmundson, Heidi Nielsen, Sheila Roberts, Michael Edelstein, Sandra Mounier Jack

Abstract:

Introduction: In line with the National Health Service’s (NHS) long-term plan, the NHS is looking to implement more digital health interventions. This study explores a case study in this area: a digital intervention used by NHS Trusts in London to consent adolescents for Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) immunisation. Methods: The electronic consent intervention was implemented in 14 secondary schools in inner city, London. These schools were statistically matched with 14 schools from the same area that were consenting using paper forms. Schools were matched on deprivation and English as an additional language. Consent form return rates and HPV vaccine uptake were compared quantitatively between intervention and matched schools. Data from observations of immunisation sessions and school feedback forms were analysed thematically. Individual and group interviews were undertaken with implementers parents and adolescents and a focus group with adolescents were undertaken and analysed thematically. Results: Twenty-eight schools (14 e-consent schools and 14 paper consent schools) comprising 3219 girls (1733 in paper consent schools and 1486 in e-consent schools) were included in the study. The proportion of pupils eligible for free school meals, with English as an additional language and students' ethnicity profile, was similar between the e-consent and paper consent schools. Return of consent forms was not increased by the implementation of the e-consent intervention. There was no difference in the proportion of pupils that were vaccinated at the scheduled vaccination session between the paper (n=14) and e-consent (n=14) schools (80.6% vs. 81.3%, p=0.93). The transition to using the system was not straightforward, whilst schools and staff understood the potential benefits, they found it difficult to adapt to new ways of working which removed some level or control from schools. Part of the reason for lower consent form return in e-consent schools was that some parents found the intervention difficult to use due to limited access to the internet, finding it hard to open the weblink, language barriers, and in some cases, the system closed a few days prior to sessions. Adolescents also highlighted the potential for e-consent interventions to by-pass their information needs. Discussion: We would advise caution against dismissing the e-consent intervention because it did not achieve its goal of increasing the return of consent forms. Given the problems embedding a news service, it was encouraging that HPV vaccine uptake remained stable. Introducing change requires stakeholders to understand, buy in, and work together with others. Schools and staff understood the potential benefits of using e-consent but found the new ways of working removed some level of control from schools, which they found hard to adapt to, possibly suggesting implementing digital technology will require an embedding process. Conclusion: The future direction of the NHS will require implementation of digital technology. Obtaining electronic consent from parents could help streamline school-based adolescent immunisation programmes. Findings from this study suggest that when implementing new digital technologies, it is important to allow for a period of embedding to enable them to become incorporated in everyday practice.

Keywords: Prevention, Digital, Consent, immunisation

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