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The results are in: Our Digital Front Door is a runaway success 

Matt Rigby, Head of Digital at Brook, shares some highlights from the first phase of our Digital Front Door project.

The Digital Front Door is the online sexual health platform that Brook is developing to empower service users to take control of their health and wellbeing through a ‘digital front door’ to Brook’s services and educational information.  

As part of our commitment to transparency and continuous improvement, we commissioned an external evaluation of the project in order to help us judge whether we’d achieved our aims. 

Our vision was to allow Brook to better prioritise those most in need of face-to-face help and provide improved and more efficient services for those who can ‘self-care’. Our aim was to do this by providing seamless, remote access to Brook’s existing clinical services – through a range of digital tools, information and advice.

Evaluation approach

We appointed Zoe Amar Digital to undertake the evaluation with the objectives of learning the difference made by the implementation of Digital Front Door to internal and external users, as well as to assess the impact that the investment in the Digital Front Door was having and to provide transparency and accountability towards our beneficiaries and funders.  

We looked for answers to the following questions: 

  • How and why did the Digital Front Door make a difference (if any) to clients managing their care, and to staff improving their digital skills and confidence? 
  • How and why did the co-design of the Digital Front Door make a difference to stakeholders? 
  • To what extent the Digital Front Door achieved Brook’s strategic priorities linked to accessibility, equality and innovation 
  • Ways in which the Digital Front Door contributed to cultural change and improved working practices within Brook.  

The evaluation used an approach called Developmental Evaluation to drive the research and answer the evaluation questions. It was a flexible approach which provided Brook with ongoing feedback during the evaluation in order that we could adapt our approaches and priorities as the project developed.  

Evaluation Outcomes 

A final report was produced and shared with Brook at the end of 2022. The report found strong evidence that this first Phase of Digital Front Door is having a positive impact on Brook’s strategic priorities of Challenging Inequality, Increasing Accessibility and Driving Innovation.  

In addition it found that:

“through a robust integrated and collaborative approach, programme leadership was able to deliver what is a fundamental change to its ways of working and demonstrate value, having a demonstrable positive impact on the pilot sites.  
 
Most importantly, the impact has been felt by the people in the frontline, with evidence of staff becoming advocates for change and starting to identify opportunities for more improvements, instead of focusing solely on challenges and risks”. 

  • The internally focused tools, especially the Staff Hub (which is where service user test results are managed), have mostly met front-line staff’s needs and improved productivity, quality of service and increased capacity within the pilot services, even though this was not a main objective of this phase.  
  • The robust but balanced approach to compliance and risk management ensured the organisation met its statutory obligations and duty as well as allowing room for experimentation.  
  • Most front-line staff felt the tools allowed them to deliver a better service and overall experience to users.  
  • Service user feedback was overwhelmingly positive, with users impressed by ease of use, convenience and perception of care (safety) when ordering a STI testing kit.  
  • The programme was successful in engendering a shift in culture, albeit within the pilot sites, to a continuous improvement and growth mindset culture. There was evidence of staff taking a positive approach to change and even identifying new opportunities for future improvements 

“Staff have confidence in it… this is their system, as well! This is the first time that this has really come from staff… We thought it was a pipe dream!” 

Brook Service Manager, Feedback from Pilot Launch Report – July 2022 

Recommendations for improvement

In addition to these findings, the Evaluation also made a number of helpful recommendations that we will work to incorporate these recommendations into our approach for Digital Front Door, especially as we move into Phase Two and seek to scale the project and the impact we’re having with it.  

These are: 

  • Strengthen communication and stakeholder engagement work as we move beyond our initial pilot sites to ensure all levels of the organisation are able to engage with the programme 
  • Explore additional options for youth participation in the programme governance 
  • Communicate our lessons learnt, challenges and successes more widely to share knowledge and learning 
  • Agree some key metrics to track and report on to support staff in understanding the impact that the programme is having 
  • Explore how training and development can support the programme by looking at formal and informal interventions that allow staff to feel prepared and able to implement change 

What’s next? 

As the Evaluation outlined, we are moving from Phase One into Phase Two of our Digital Front Door project. In addition to developing new functionality to support our service users to access services that are most relevant to their needs, and our service teams to provide that care in the most effective way, we will also scale up the work that we’ve done so far.  

Key to this will be engaging more of our clinical teams in the programme based on what we’ve learnt from Phase One.  

In February, Florie Moran, joined the team as Brook’s Digital Transformation Lead. Florie will work closely with all of Brook’s clinical teams to support on the wider rollout of our Digital Front Door suite, and to ensure that all of our tools continue to be driven first and foremost by the needs of our users. We’re super excited to have Florie on board and we’re looking forward to reporting back on the progress made with Phase Two and with the implementation of Phase One Evaluation recommendations!   

Read the full evaluation report here

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