We’ve written extensively on the NHS.UK blog about how important user research is to all our products. Without talking to users early and frequently, how can we know we are building the right thing? We can’t. That’s why we build prototypes, start with paper and run research labs. To learn things up front which could otherwise be expensive mistakes further down the line.

From the start of our work on registering with a GP practice we have been talking with practice managers, clinicians and patients in waiting rooms. We’ve spoken with rural and urban practices, with people who use online services, and those who don’t. As a team we are really keen to understand different people’s roles in GP registration, and a recent trip to Southend gave us an opportunity to meet with groups we hadn’t yet engaged with: a Clinical Commissioning Group and a user representation group.

Southend Clinical Commissioning Group is the first CCG we have spoken to and it was great to understand their areas of interest. Something that we hadn’t thought about was how a digital registration service could help care homes to register patients. Southend has a high number of care beds for the population, so this is something particularly relevant to them.

We also discussed the complexity of the health landscape. The different geographical borders of CCGs and local authorities may well be different from borders used by various technologies and systems. Interoperability is essential and a better understanding of this landscape helps us to identify where our service might best fit.

These are the sort of things we learn by talking with as many users as we can, truly understanding the problem, and doing more than just digitising a form.

After Southend Clinical Commissioning Group, we met with Southend Older People’s Assembly. They kindly let us attend one of their committee meetings to talk through our plans for Register with a GP and spent some time with us testing our prototypes.

Our time with the committee raised some really interesting points:

  • The prototype has a section asking for “any health concerns you want the GP to know about” but what constitutes a health concern? Type 2 diabetes might be deemed as a health concern by a practice, but if a someone is managing it well, it might not be a concern to them – therefore they might not mention it. Would that be a problem?
  • What will happen with the information I’m supplying? Will it be used to make a decision about whether or not I can join a different practice? It’s interesting to hear people’s concerns about how they might be “judged” when providing health information (by whatever channel), and how this balances with their knowledge of their rights.
  • Is an email essential to register? Some people might not have an email, but be happy to use online services.
  • Some people don’t want to use technology. They have access to the internet and a computer, but would prefer do things in person.

We really enjoyed our day in Southend and would like to thank both Southend CCG and Southend Older People’s Assembly. We look forward to chatting with them again in the new year, once we have had an chance to incorporate these suggestions into our service.

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