Health Innovation Manchester: Understanding the Patient User Experience of Virtual Wards in Greater Manchester

We worked with Health Innovation Manchester (HInM) to understand, map, and improve the patient and carer experiences of virtual wards, while also capturing the input and views of clinical staff.

We worked with Health Innovation Manchester (HInM) to understand, map, and improve the patient and carer experiences of virtual wards, while also capturing the input and views of clinical staff. Health Innovation Manchester work with innovators to discover, develop and deploy new solutions that improve the health and wellbeing of Greater Manchester’s 2.8m citizens.

As part of our collaboration with HInM, we conducted a comprehensive assessment of the usability and accessibility of the Greater Manchester Patient Held Record rollout before its integration with the NHS App. We also assisted in enhancing GP websites and online consultation platforms following the pandemic. Impressed by our work, HInM commissioned us to evaluate the experiences of patients, carers, and clinicians with new virtual wards, enabling us to provide valuable insights to inform policy and future service design. To frame this research, we conducted a rapid review of digital technology for self-management, presenting key thematic findings and highlighting areas where further innovation and learning were required.

The background

A virtual ward is a remote service that allows patients to manage their health and care in their own home, with clinical supervision. Pilot programs for virtual wards have already been conducted for several pathways, including Covid-19.

The disparity in methods and outcomes has led to future investigation to explore their use and expansion possibilities across further pathways and localities. The development of an operational model that can influence the vision and strategy for further development and implementation of wards across Greater Manchester (GM) will require establishing a clear understanding of how the elements interact to ensure an optimal user experience.

Our approach

  • 1-on-1 interviews with different types of patients (some who had been on a virtual ward and some who had been in hospital but would have been eligible) to understand their end-to-end experiences and the barriers that they face.

  • 1-on-1 interviews with various Clinicians, Adult Social Care (ASC) workers and members of the CCG from across Greater Manchester to understand their experiences of virtual wards.

  • Capture sheets (top insights, constraints, enablers, and quotes) were created for each interview. The top insights were grouped together and synthesised to identify key themes, opportunities, and considerations.

  • Personas were created to articulate what we know about a particular type of user. They capture what we know about patients, carers, and clinicians to create a shared understanding of their needs and to help us make better decisions and the impact they will have on them.

  • Journey Maps created were the entire end-to-end experience someone has while interacting with secondary care whether they remained in hospital or transferred onto a virtual ward. The maps included everything that they encounter from the discovery process through to the end of their experience and beyond. The focus wasn’t on transaction, but rather how the customer feels during their interaction with hospital and virtual ward care. This was all based on research findings.

  • Service Blueprint created a complete picture of the service, it helped us to understand what different teams were doing and enables better communication and outcomes. Blueprints also help to identify and explain priorities and encourages focused zooming in and out on key areas of the service.

What we achieved together

Patients’ voices were heard: “It helped my mental health – I think it helped my physical health…at home I was more relaxed, I had company as well.”

Nexer’s role was to build a strong, qualitative, evidence base for Health Innovation Manchester to utilise in the development of Virtual Wards in GM. We ensured that the patient, carer, and clinician voices were heard and key areas for improvement were identified and actioned. Creating a shared understanding of the patient and clinician needs, meant that future decisions could confidently be made.

A screengrab showing patient personas created for the virtual wards project. The personas cover four different kinds of patient and their requirements.
A graphic showing a persona profile for a user called Pearl, including needs, thinks & feels, hears & sees, barriers & frustrations and goals & motivations

To read more about the key findings of the research please visit the following blog by Laura Rooney, Director of Strategy at Health Innovation Manchester: ‘How many times do you go into hospital, then you come back home, and you think “I’m glad I’m home”

The impact we made

As a team, we created a greater understanding of virtual wards through visualising the service in both user journeys and a service blueprint. These diagrams helped to identify the key stakeholders involved and the various steps needed for the service to be delivered.

A screengrab showing the user journeys work we did, creating journeys a patient and doctor working on the virtual wards

Once we had the service landscape mapped out, and using the insights from the user research, we could more clearly identify both enablers (positives) and constraints (challenges). This allowed for Health Innovation Manchester to pioneer change and ultimately create a positive user experience for both patients and clinicians.

Get in touch

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