What is a Digital Health Hub?
Digital Health Hubs are dedicated community organisations and locations with trusted people on hand to help their service users to access relevant information and tools to improve their health and wellbeing. Digital Health Hubs tie digital inclusion and health literacy together and are as much about supporting improved health and wellbeing as they are about supporting people to have the skills, confidence, motivation, and connectivity to do more with digital.
The people most likely to benefit from easy access to health information are also those who are most likely to be digitally excluded, and therefore unable to access the internet without help. Digital channels can provide valuable health information, in both a place and time that is immediately useful to people. However people who are already excluded may find that digital information alone does not meet their needs, through a lack of trust or a lack of knowledge of such resources.
Digital Health Hubs are responsive to people’s interests as well as their needs, they take a holistic approach in supporting people to:
- Manage their health and wellbeing
- Access digital health services (using NHS and GP services online)
- Developing their digital skills and confidence and overcoming digital inclusion barriers.
The key principles of a Digital Health Hub
Builds Trust and Relationships
Utilising places where people feel welcome and comfortable, people they already know, where they feel safe. Inclusivity. Reaching and engaging people who might not feel comfortable in other settings.
Builds local partnerships and bridges between health, care and community organisations
Greater understanding of service offers, refer and signposting, shared resources and goals. Finding new ways to work together and collaborating on approaches.
Opens up new possibilities and opportunities that support people’s health and wellbeing
Greater understanding of tools and resources available for people to support their health and wellbeing, enhancing and expanding current service offer.
Takes a person-centred holistic approach to digital
“Whatever is important to you is important to us” – introducing digital in ways that respond to people’s interests before moving onto health and wellbeing – Where access to digital feels incidental and not prescribed. Responding to immediate need.
Benefits of a Digital Health Hub for Patients and Service Users
Digital Health Hubs work to support people to have greater access to health and care services digitally, access to wider support and tools to improve self-management, increased digital skills, literacy and confidence and improved health and wellbeing. Digital Health Hubs support people in reducing social isolation and loneliness, increasing social connections, and enabling access to Wi-Fi or equipment and in some cases a safe, confidential space to conduct video appointments.
I’ve found two health apps – one is a patient access app which I’ve joined, which means I can now manage my medication digitally which I need every month, ordering my repeat prescriptions and I can now manage my appointments online.
I used to get so anxious doing this over the phone, having this support at the Digital Health Hub has changed my life.Service user, Cross Gates and District Good Neighbours
Benefits of a Digital Health Hub for organisations and services
Digital Health Hubs work to build networks and partnership within communities across third-sector and health and care providers. This improves signposting and referrals between different sectors and enables wider reach within the community. Implementing and developing a Digital Health Hub within your organisation enhances your service offer, increases staff skills and confidence with digital inclusion and works to enable more of your service users accessing services digitally. It also increases opportunities to achieve priorities focused around improving health and wellbeing, uptake to services and reducing health inequalities.
Support from 100% Digital Leeds
100% Digital Leeds can support your organisation with implementing and developing your Digital Health Hub:
Providing tools, resources and training to support embedding the Digital Health Hub principles into and across your current activities and services. We work with you to support your teams to have the skills, knowledge, funding, equipment you need to support your members to be digitally included.
Cross Gates and District Good Neighbours Digital Health Hub
The 100% Digital Leeds team partnered with Cross Gates & District Good Neighbours Scheme to launch the first Digital Health Hub in Leeds in 2019 after a successful funding application to Good Things Foundation. This enabled Cross Gates & District Good Neighbours Scheme to embed digital support and resources into their already successful programme of activities. Their 1,200 members received support on topics such as ordering repeat prescriptions online, making a GP appointment online or using the NHS app to self–manage their long-term health conditions.
The Digital Health Hub model works in partnership with NHS, creating strong links with local GP practices and Social Prescribing teams. There is now an established referral pathway for health professionals and staff to refer patients to the Digital Health Hub for support in accessing online NHS services, and this has continued throughout COVID-19.
Patients can now make GP appointments and order online prescriptions, which has been vital at this time and created a change in lifestyle for patients with the way they engage with health services. This reduced pressures on front-line NHS services and increased uptake of video appointments. Digital Champions are continuing to work with patients and carers to understand and meet their digital health needs, which is a real demonstration of co-production. They take a person-centred holistic approach to ensure people feel confident and comfortable, finding what the hook is for people to take their first steps online and support them to overcome barriers to digital inclusion.
The benefits of Cross Gates and District Good Neighbours being a Digital Health Hub
In the face of COVID-19 this Digital Health Hub model has shown the key benefits to the framework in providing digital health support throughout the pandemic. The centre is delivering their service by communicating to their members fully through welfare calls and virtual sessions, but established partnerships and collaborative working with local healthcare providers has continued.
The main factors which contributed to this success are:
- The 100% Digital Leeds team working closely with Primary Care by delivering Digital Champion training to local GP Practice staff and volunteers to increase access to NHS services online and self-management apps such as the MyCOPD app. This has strengthened the links between the community provision at the Digital Health Hub and primary care networks, enabling continued referrals for digital support and improving health outcomes for their members/patients.
- Increased communication around NHS information and Coronavirus updates to members throughout the pandemic. Encouraging members to still access Primary Care when necessary and increasing awareness of access to cancer screenings and other key services.
- An established cohort of staff and volunteers within Cross Gates and District Good Neighbours Scheme who have continued to provide digital support and training with members via telephone calls.
- Key stakeholders across Third Sector, NHS, Leeds Community Healthcare and Voluntary Action Leeds.
Following the success of this first Digital Health Hub in Leeds, this framework will be shared further so that the model can be extended to other Neighbourhood Networks and Third Sector organisations across the city.
The council wants to improve health outcomes for all and enable more people to self-manage their health conditions. This model will provide digital support for people by harnessing the tools and resources amongst community organisations, enabling service users to access health information online, online consultations and NHS services.
The wider benefits of increasing digital skills include: Increasing social connections, combating loneliness and promoting independence amongst service users, enabling them to shop and bank online as well as accessing online groups and virtual sessions to support their mental wellbeing.
For more information, see the full report from Good Things Foundation.