Digital Companions — digital support through a trusted face


Claire Jordan, Lead Nurse Patient Engagement and Education, Aneurin Bevan University Health Board

Dean Jones, Customer Access & Service Quality Manager, Hywel Dda University

Marc Davies, Project Manager, Wales Co-operative Centre


Wales Cooperative Centre, in collaboration with Carmarthenshire County Council, Aneurin Bevan University Health Board and Hywel Dda University Health Board


This Bevan Exemplar project introduced digital companions to support older people lacking confidence in using digital health services.


Background


Digital exclusion is a significant public health challenge. As the digital transformation of health services continues, there is a risk that those who could benefit most from the digital health revolution are those that are left behind.


Being a Digital Companion is very rewarding. To see someone’s face light up as they watch their favourite singer performing songs on the tablet was lovely. She had never even touched a digital device before so it helped give her confidence as well as pleasure.
Digital Inclusion in Health and Care in Wales


Lack of interest, motivation and trust are the main reasons why people don’t go online. Many have concerns around privacy and security. The best way to conquer these fears is through one-to-one support from someone they personally know and trust.



Aims

  • This Bevan Exemplar project identified older people lacking digital confidence and skills, and recruited a friend or relative to be their Digital Companion.

  • Companions were given guidance to help them support their friend/relative. Over a period of several months, they helped them gain confidence using digital health services.

Challenges

  • Companions were initially concerned they would be asked to deal with personal or financial details by the people they were assisting, and might encounter security risks and online threats.

  • Companions needed reassurance that their role was only to provide a first positive experience of the internet to others, and build slowly from that point.

  • Building the confidence to engage digitally is one of many issues Companions faced with the individuals they supported.

  • Learning difficulties, access and mobility limitations were also contributing factor which need factoring in with personal development.


Fel Cyfaill Digidol, teimlaf fod medru cynnig cymorth trwy gyfrwng y Gymraeg i'm ffrindiau neu deulu yn hanfodol os wyf am iddynt ymddiried ynof.
Hazel Thomas Swyddog Datblygu a Hyrwyddo Merched y Wawr, Rhanbarth Ceredigion a Phenfro

As a Digital Companion, I feel that being able to offer support through the medium of Welsh to my friends or family is essential if I want them to trust me.
Hazel Thomas   Development and Promotion Officer for Merched y Wawr, Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire Division

Outcomes

  • Hywel Dda HB region – 15 Companions trained and now delivering their role; 40 more booked in for training.

  • Aneurin Bevan HB region – 34 Companions trained and now delivering their role; 20 more booked in for training.

  • The project harnessed digital technology and created opportunities for people to become more active in their own care, confidently interacting with services and information online. With help from their Digital Companion, people were able to make informed choices about their own treatment, care and support.

  • The project was underpinned by the principles of prudent healthcare: enabling co-production, reaching those with the greatest needs, encouraging self-care and reducing the digital divide.


Next steps


Digital Companions has now been incorporated into the Welsh Government programme, Digital Communities Wales: Digital Confidence, Health and Well-being for roll out across all Health Boards in Wales.


The Bevan Exemplar scheme provided an opportunity to deliver digital inclusion support in an alternative way. This is social prescribing which could be hugely beneficial to many patients.
Marc Davies, Wales Co-operative Centre



Part of cohort Bevan Exemplar Projects 2018-19