Case Studies

User Research on the Topol Programme for Digital Fellowships in Healthcare

The National School of Healthcare Science asked us to carry out a research project about Cohort 1 of their flagship Topol Programme for Digital Fellowships in Healthcare, which the School is responsible for designing and delivering.  

The research focused on two core themes:

  1. The experience of making digital change happen in the NHS 
  2. The experience of being a Topol Fellow

The research centred around detailed, semi-structured 1-2-1 interviews with 12 of the 18 Digital Fellows. The Fellows shared their experiences of leading digital change in a complex NHS environment over the last year. 

They reflected on challenges faced prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as the way in which the pandemic impacted their ability to lead digital change. 

Research with the Fellows was supplemented by interviews with 6 Non-Fellows who were able to offer an outside perspective on the Fellowship programme and digital change in the NHS. 

These Non-Fellow representatives ranged in roles including a Chief Clinical Information Officer, a project supervisor and a Deputy Director of Research. 

This approach provided balance to the views of the Fellows and helped underpin aspects of the research that could have broader implications, beyond improving the Programme for the next cohort of Fellows.  

Towards the end of the research, we also ran a workshop with 6 of the Fellows. We used the workshop to further explore some of the emerging themes from the interviews, particularly the more contentious findings, where there appeared to be disagreement between the Fellows themselves, or between the Fellows and their Representatives. This sparked interesting debate and provided further insight into research findings. 

The research generated a wide set of findings about the many issues faced by this multidisciplinary group of clinicians seeking to make digital change happen in the NHS. These findings will be used inside HEE to not only plan the way in which the next cohort of Fellows will experience the Fellowship Programme but also to influence a number of related digital health workforce planning and training initiatives.

“The work provided us with really valuable, concrete insights into the achievements of the fellows, the enabling factors in their successes in addition to the various organisational and cultural barriers and factors that fellows had to tackle.

The resulting outputs from the work have been used extensively by us in the programme team to inform programme designs and decisions for cohorts 2 and 3.”

Stuart Sutherland – Head of Digital, NSHCS

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