Weeknote 15th to 22nd March

Highlights from last week

  • Emma published her blog post ‘Lets talk about sex’ https://emmaparnell.medium.com/lets-talk-about-sex-6bb64c7e8f0c There is no clinical or monitoring need for data on gender when someone books an appointment for a coronavirus vaccination. The service only needs information to match people to their GP record. We should never collect data if it is not needed. When it is not needed and excludes people there should be no argument against removing it.
  • I presented our product experience dashboards to the product development senior leadership team and had a couple of chats with some teams who are working on adding to our regular reports. We have a lot of data from public facing products and these two teams could help add to the health and care professional insight.
  • I caught up with our user research and research ops lead and we prioritised the research ops backlog. We have made really good progress on developing our research ops capability and the value it brings is evident.
  • I met with Tosin, Rachel and Nancy about our user research community site and how we can develop its content.
  • One of our programme leads had a chat with me to gain my view on the recommendations from a service assessment they were involved with.
  • I had a good conversation with the product development directorate design team about inclusion and what that means in terms of the directorate strategy implementation.
  • I attended the Digital Transformation of Screening Programme Board
  • I had a few catch ups with teams working in primary care, vaccinations, and urgent emergency care to provide user research oversight and steer in those areas.
  • I worked through the content aspects of the service design maturity model with my colleagues from the content profession. I now need to work through the design aspects with my design colleagues.
  • Had probably my last official one to one with Matt before he moves to his new role. I have really enjoyed working with Matt and am going to miss these sessions.
  • I was very grateful to George this week for setting up virtual coffee breaks. I really benefitted from the one I joined with her and Eva. I am also grateful to Matt for his timing at entering the call at exactly the perfect comedy moment.
  • I think I might have possibly, accidentally talked my way into literally going back to the front line and doing some user research. That’ll teach me.
  • My daughter and I now have matching wonder woman hoodies in part due to red nose day school outfits but also because of Tosin and our chats that I am always very grateful to be part of.

What made me think

Dashboards — they have their role to play, but they also present risk.

For me, they are a good way to get people tuning in to what is going on in a product but are completely worthless unless there is a triangulation of data within them that provides information. The experience dashboards we are reporting on monthly include data from a range of sources: exit surveys, satisfaction measures, service tickets, analytics but most importantly data from interviews, observations of people using our products, card sorts and the whole range of methodologies used in user research. Scores on a rating scale can only tell us just that; where our product sits on a rating scale not what works or does not work. It doesn’t help us to manage risks, prioritise or deliver outcomes for people. We need other cues to help us.

To use a car analogy, only knowing how much petrol we have won’t tell us if we have enough petrol to get to where we are going, but getting to somewhere is essentially what we need our car, petrol and other important parts of a car to collectively do. Dashboards should contain information not just data. They should meet the needs of the people that use them and answer questions about what we need to do next and what is stopping us getting there.

The mental health hub on the NHS website went live this week (nhs.uk/mentalhealth/).

The brilliance and success of the NHS website is due to the fact that everything delivered by the team is based on understanding through research what people need and working out how we can meet that need in a clinically safe and accessible way. By meeting needs we give people the information they need to manage their health and keep well. This is about understanding what works, in what context of use and supporting people, not trying to nudge or tell them what to do.

People use this website to manage their health because it meets their need. If we want to (for want of a better word) empower people to keep well, we need to really think about that power relationship and not look at ways we can make people behave in a certain way, but instead work with people to understand how we can support them. We, the people delivering, designing, or commissioning the products, don’t know what is the best way to help people do what they need to do to keep well. The people that need to keep well do.

‘The patient will be at the heart of everything the NHS does’ is point 4 of the NHS constitution. This states ‘It [the NHS] should support individuals to promote and manage their own health. NHS services must reflect, and should be coordinated around and tailored to, the needs and preferences of patients, their families and their carers.’

The core of what we do as people that work for the NHS, and one of the values we subscribe to when we work within it, is about meeting the needs of patients. This needs to be where we start when we look at what services we should deliver and how we should deliver them.

Some of the things I plan to do next week

  • Work with George on the maturity model
  • Lead the coronavirus UCD community meet up
  • Protect the reflection time that I have booked out in my diary
  • Related: write about some of my thinking
  • Say goodbye to a couple of valued colleagues

Head of User Research @NHS Digital. Views my own.