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Notes from peer researchers' training day

Updated: Sep 20, 2022

Today’s workshop was really useful. After receiving an introduction to the project we began by looking at what ‘innovation’ is (something new such as a new product or service) before considering how new products can lead to new ways of organising what we do and the role of ‘users’ in creating successful products. Our first exercise was to consider innovations that could help local communities. This could be in housing, education, transport or shopping. In our sub-groups and later in the wider group we discussed how innovative products may have various pros and cons resulting sometimes in more barriers as well as solutions. My sub-group, for example, focused on the idea of using virtual reality for education and we found that while it might help improve engagement through entertainment it may not be easily affordable and may reduce socialisation with others at a critical time. We then considered what digital technologies can do in relation to healthcare, namely organising and giving better access to data (e.g. NHS app), replacing face-to-face contact with online consultations and delivering healthcare to wherever people are (e.g. implantable drug delivery). For our next exercise we explored how digital health technologies could best help local communities considering what would work well and what would not work well. We considered factors such as inclusivity, accessibility, simplicity and trustworthiness. Finally we were asked to write two meaningful questions that we could ask at interview to help draw conclusions on what could work and what might not work in relation to new health technologies.

A key question I had throughout the workshop was how do we create new technologies with more pros than cons. We thought of new and improved ideas and still it seemed that there were just as many problems as there were solutions. For example, for our VR in education we believed we could improve engagement through entertainment but created other problems such as reducing socialisation. When thinking specifically about healthcare technologies such as the NHS app, it could be argued we could make more accessible portals (by making them simpler) but that those portals might not be used if users feel that they cannot trust the technology with their data. I think that this is why it is important for us to address as many common themes as possible (strengths and limitations) to draw the best innovative ideas (e.g. looking at accessibility, trustworthiness, among other themes). Whatever conclusions we draw, it seems that most ideas may always have certain limitations, especially since people are different and will have varying abilities and approaches, but that does not mean we can't reduce the limitations by working together and adapting our ideas.

Our second day of workshop focused on the importance of understanding our communities as well as ethics and research methods. Picking up from yesterday's importance on the role of 'users' in our research we considered how understanding our communities was pivotal to this. If someone does not agree with the COVID vaccine then it is not for us to judge them, we are there to understand their world and how they interpret it in order to produce the most effective innovative ideas. We then moved on to collecting stories through interviews. Rather than these interviews being structured (keeping to the set questions) or unstructured (no organised questions) they will be semi-structured in that we have questions prepared but can ask them in different ways based on the individuals and their responses (to enable greater understanding of our interviewees). In order for our interviewees to feel comfortable in answering questions honestly it is important for us to remain neutral, not asking leading questions and showing no sign of judgement with respect to their answers. The conversation needs to be win-win so that the interviewees feel they are getting something out of it. It would be best, with the interviewees signed permission, for us to record their answers. Our questioning and responses will get easier over time - just remember to show you care about their views and don't be afraid to engage their answers with further 'how' and 'why' questions. They can always contact you another day if they think of something else. Remember to be transparent about what the information is for and how you are recording it. Following this we considered ethics. Be transparent about confidentiality and anonymity - the data will be deleted after two weeks and they may be referred to as Person A (etc). They can also ask t withdraw from the study. We will need to talk them through and receive signatures for the informed consent form, audio consent form and the invitation to participate in the project. We then conducted 5 minute practice interviews and noted responses relating to what characteristics of digital technology they found useful. Using their responses we then looked at coding, beginning with taking quotes from the participant and associating them with words. We then linked words together into codes (themes) where appropriate. Codes will be key to analysing the data.

The second workshop was interesting for exploring how we will conduct the interviews in the most effective way and analyse the data. I think semi-structured interviews are certainly the best way to get clarity on responses as we can shape our questions based on the audience and ask further questions which we ourselves believe can get further results. Everyone in the room had connections and experiences with a great diversity of people across the region. Each of us has an understanding of these communities which I believe means we are best placed to show understanding with our interviewees and shape the questions to produce further honest responses from them. When conducting the coding we could see how interpretations of words differed. Finding a 'pure' code was not possible because themes/words often overlap. It was clear, however, that we could work together in a constructive manner to express ideas to produce better ideas. I think it's really important for us to do this throughout our interviews, research and analysis by sharing our ideas and findings on this blog.

Jim Priestley

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