Background Digital technology interventions for health and wellbeing are appealing, accessible, scalable and low cost. However, the evidence is far from established; many existing studies are of low quality, and there has been a focus on quantitative evaluation and on clinical and residential care populations. The Smartline project aims to explore the role that digital technology may play in improving health, wellbeing and social connectedness in social housing residents from low socioeconomic status communities in Cornwall. The aims of this study were: to explore existing digital technology use and competence; to explore digital willingness and readiness to use new technologies; to identify perceived barriers and facilitators to technology use; and to scope the feasibility and acceptability of potential digital interventions in the Smartline cohort.
Methods Three semi-structured focus groups (19 participants) and individual telephone interviews (n=3, ongoing) in a purposive, maximal variation sample of Smartline participants. To complement the qualitative responses, some self-reported quantitative data was collected in the focus groups, including perceived technology competence (self-rated according to the UK government Digital Inclusion Scale) and preference ranking of eight interventions. Focus groups and interviews were audio-recorded, transcribed verbatim and analysed thematically.
Results Existing levels of experience with digital technology are diverse, ranging from ‘willing and unable’ to ‘expert’. Perceived barriers include usability, cost, poor internet connection, lack of skills and knowledge, safety and privacy concerns, sensory impairments and physical disabilities. Facilitators include awareness, training and technical support, improved access to facilities, and availability of choice. Preferred types of digital technology were wearable activity monitors (e.g. Fitbit®), virtual assistants (e.g. Amazon Alexa) and social messaging (e.g. WhatsApp). Analysis is ongoing, but overarching themes include: a need to improve awareness (what technologies are available and their capabilities for improving health and wellbeing); a willingness to learn (new skills and/or improve existing skills); the need for human contact (this should not be replaced by technology); and individual preferences (the importance of tailoring and choice).
Conclusion There is a need and desire to use digital technology to improve heath, wellbeing and social connectedness in the diverse group of Smartline participants. Barriers may be overcome with increased awareness and training, and tailoring and choice of interventions to meet individual needs and preferences. The findings will be used to inform piloting of different digital interventions in the next phase of the Smartline study.
Statistics from Altmetric.com
If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.