Using digital technology in primary care services

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Summary of report content

Healthwatch Sandwell wanted to find out how well patients had adjusted to the changes in primary care services caused by the Covid-19 pandemic and what challenges may have arisen. They gathered information via a survey and focus groups and gathered information from 209 people.

Overall patients have been happy or satisfied with the services they have received within primary care. Many have adjusted well to using digital technology and state some benefits. The feedback on patient experiences provides some useful insight that could help inform continued development of digital technology within primary care services.

However, the Healthwatch Sandwell survey results also showed that 44% of the public said they found digital technology difficult to use and over 30% had challenges with accessing equipment or internet data supply.

Focus Groups were held as part of the project to explore in more detail the issues and barriers and how they might be able to be addressed. The Focus Groups included people over 65 years old, people with sensory and learning disabilities, people from minority ethnic communities with language barriers and “digital poverty”.

The main findings, reflected in the report recommendations, are that accessible communication options, choice and reasonable adjustments need to be considered in developing up digital services. Covid-19 has impacted and created pressures and priorities for primary care services such as services for clinically vulnerable patients, who have been shielding, and the Covid-19 vaccination rollout. Therefore, the project focused on the patient experience side of using digital technology in services at this stage. Healthwatch Sandwell would like to work with the Primary Care Networks (PCNs) and commissioners at an appropriate stage and consider how the outputs of this report might help inform and develop services.

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General details

Report title 
Using digital technology in primary care services
Local Healthwatch 
Healthwatch Sandwell
Date of publication 
Friday, 30 April, 2021
Date evidence capture began 
Sunday, 1 November, 2020
Date evidence capture finished 
Sunday, 31 January, 2021
Key themes 
Booking appointments
Communication between staff and patients
Digitalisation of services

Methodology and approach

Was the work undertaken at the request of another organisation? 
Primary research method used 
Focus group
If an Enter and View methodology was applied, was the visit announced or unannounced? 

Details of health and care services included in the report

Primary care services 
GP practice

Details about conditions and diseases

Types of disabilities 
Learning or understanding or concentrating
Mental health

Details of people who shared their views

Number of people who shared their views 
Age group 
All people 18 and over
Sexual orientation 
Not known
Does the information include public's views? 
Does the information include carer's, friend's or relative's views? 
Does the information include staff's views? 
What was the main sentiment of the people who shared their views? 

Outcomes and impact

Were recommendations made by local Healthwatch in the report? 
Does the information contain a response from a provider? 
Is there evidence of impact in the report? 
Is there evidence of impact external to the report? 
Not known

Network Impact
Relationships that exist locally, regionally, nationally have benefited from the work undertaken in the report
Implied Impact
Where it is implied that change may occur in the future as a result of Healthwatch work. This can be implied in a provider  response, press release or other source. Implied impact can become tangible impact once change has occurred.
Tangible Impact
There is evidence of change that can be directly attributed to Healthwatch work undertaken in the report.