Exploring the Potential of Digital Technology to link AHPs and People in Remote, Rural Hubs
Since June 2014, a group made up of people living with disabilities and health problems, carers and Allied Health Professionals (AHP’s) have been actively learning about the benefits of digital inclusion. In August, we established a steering group to drive forward a Living it Up Creatively digital project that links Helmsdale, a remote rural community in East Sutherland, to New Craigs, the main Mental Health Hospital supporting the Highlands from Inverness.
The project is about sharing therapeutic activities and experiences and has been designed by people living with health issues, particularly people with dementia, involving professionals, and led by AHPs. The East Sutherland Dementia Friendly Community together with NHS Highland and Alzheimer Scotland is one of the Scottish Government 8 Pillar Test Sites and this work fits very well within its parameters. The project is underpinned by www.livingitup.org.uk
The goal of this project Living it Up Creatively is to establish links via smart TV screens to routinely share therapeutic activities across two very different sites (rural and urban). Beginning with “small tests of change” and following PDSA (Plan, Do, Study, Act), we are taking time to visualise what this will look like which means we are not too concerned if it doesn’t all make sense right away! This might be the kind of project that’s easier to do than explain, and it really needs us to “be the change we want to see”.
Initially we thought that all we needed to do was buy two TV screens and start video conferencing activities between the two centres i.e. the AHP department in New Craigs Hospital, Inverness and the Community Hub in Helmsdale. Instead we are exploring the route of co-production with the steering group actually shaping the development of this project step by step.
We are realising our own potential to be creative and develop and share therapeutic activities, so leaving aside the technical issues, we have been working off line to explore creative themes, combining Health with the Arts. We wanted to know about the interests of our beneficiaries i.e. what would excite them and in turn how we could ensure peoples’ own interests are central to this project.
Our first theme was feet (#liufeet) – quickly followed by colour (#liucolour) and celebrate (#liucelebrate) – with contributions flowing in from a variety of sources e.g. some used twitter, others Facebook, with photographs and stories sent to us via email, DVDs and memory sticks. So much for thinking people affected by dementia could not be directly involved in digital technology!
We were astonished at the range of creative activities highlighted by everyone involved: creative writing; memory lane stories, podiatry foot care advice; art; drama; occupational therapy imaginative inputs; Commonwealth Games visits; lots of beach walks and beach activities; photography; music. The list is endless … and ever growing and as social media took hold of the project, contributors from far and wide added inspiration.
Taking time to experience what activities feel like, as well as what they look like, has been an integral part of this project and we have been very much our own guinea pigs. The activities generated e.g. by #liufeet felt therapeutic. And when we all shared our activities, it was clear how health messages could be included. So, having studied #liufeet in detail, the use of themes as a focus worked extremely well for us.
It was an easy decision to continue working with themes, particularly since PDSA cycles could help us keep track of measuring and improving people’s individual experiences which are central to the success of this project. For a steering group low on digital skills, stretching ourselves to explore developing a slide show and the beginnings of a film is an additional achievement we are celebrating.
We are now poised – with additional technical support from NHS Highland and Living it Up – not only to share both the film and slide show, but also to begin testing how we digitally link everything together. While this project is very much about sharing the personal benefits of activities, as more people get involved the potential to produce materials and resources for sharing is exciting and we can’t wait to see how this approach unfolds.
How will we use digital technology to connect professionals and people in the future?
And follow us on twitter: @sarahahpmh and @a_carers_voice.