UCL Institute of Health Informatics


New Paper: An evaluation service for digital public health interventions

9 September 2021

Professor Henry Potts and colleagues present their new paper, " An evaluation service for digital public health interventions: User-centered design approach"

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We need to know that the digital health products being made work, especially as COVID-19 has seen a huge increase in the use of digital across all aspects of health provision. However, evaluating digital health products is not straightforward. That’s why Public Health England funded a project to help developers, commissioners and researchers understand the process of evaluation in a digital context. The result is a resource that recently went live. Evaluating Digital Health Products is a comprehensive introduction to the space, written to be accessible to everyone, and including 30 pages on specific methods (from qualitative approaches to health economics) and two do-it-yourself workshops to help you plan an evaluation.

The academic team who wrote the resource was led by Prof Henry Potts at the UCL Institute of Health Informatics and included Dr Paulina Bondaronek (UCL E-Health Unit) and Dr Manuel Gomes (UCL Department of Applied Health Research). The project followed the English Government Digital Service’s agile approach to digital delivery. A paper describing the thinking behind the resource and how a user-centred design approach was used in its development has just been published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research written by Kass Karpathakis at Harvard, and with Prof Potts and Prof Elizabeth Murray (UCL E-Health Unit).

If we can improve the wider health system’s knowledge of how to evaluate digital health, we will improve what evaluations are being done, which will lead to better digital health products, which will lead to better healthcare being delivered. The guidance is designed to support a broad range of different digital health activities. It is written in general terms to support a broad range of products, services and campaigns, in public health and in other areas. This is a fast-moving sector: the technology keeps changing. People used to focus on internet-delivered products. Now, it’s all about apps. In the future, we may see more focus on wearables (such as smartwatches) or AI or the Internet of Things. But the tools we’re providing help teams adapt general principles to their specific problems, whatever they’re going to be.

One NHS Digital product manager said of the resource, “If you care about evaluating digital health products read this, and use it!”. And one researcher gave us feedback saying, “The guide explains things in a simple way and almost entirely avoids the use of scientific/industry jargon. It will be useful to refer to the guide when teaching university students or healthcare professionals interested in digital health.”

Read the full paper

To find out more, contact Professor Henry Potts, h.potts@ucl.ac.uk