An apprentice’s view on user research

The Commissioning and Quality Assurance Team are working on the re-commissioning of the Telecare contract. When it came to gaining the views of service users, they explored different options and decided to conduct user research interviews.

 User research interviews are conducted with a small number of participants, but go in depth to look at the person as a whole. For a person-centred service like Telecare, which focuses on providing people with technology to help them live confidently and independently in their homes, this is just what we needed.

Hannah Cambridge, Modern Apprentice in the Integrated Commissioning team, led the identification and recruitment of participants, as well as conducting interviews. Here she shares her experience.

Identifying and recruiting participants meant going through the following tasks:

  • Planning variety of clients: I gathered various information from the current contractor about users of the service including: new Link Line/Telecare users (those who had recently had the equipment installed and/or received the call monitoring service), those who use the service often (who were referred by the response team) and those who may have recently cancelled their service.  We wanted to interview clients of various ages and carers of clients using the service to gather different opinions on how the service benefits them and identify what their different needs might be.
  • Identifying and contacting clients: From the different lists provided, we gathered 20 different clients to approach for interviews, even though we were aiming to speak to just 6-8 people. That meant we had plenty of options to match the client groups we were looking for and meet the timescales we were working to from people who were willing to participate.
  • Appointing volunteers for dates and letters: We had a team of staff volunteers to help us conduct the interviews and organised and appointed them to their slots by accessing calendars, choosing a date and time for the appointments and ensuring that all volunteers were able to engage with at least one client. Once the appointments were confirmed with clients by telephone, I sent them a letter reminding them of the appointment and who would be coming to interview and take notes. I also provided the information to the staff volunteers.
  • Preparation for client visits: I created client profiles to ensure those interviewing the client had a background into their personal information, such as: name, address, postcode, phone number, age, health conditions, appointment details (date and time, parking arrangements, who’s attending, etc), living arrangements and their care package for the service (including level of service). This meant that all the interviewers had some background to help build a relationship and natural conversation with the client.

I found the user research method enjoyable, exciting and eye-opening as I engaged with a few, very different individuals within the community who use the Link Line or Telecare service or even those who care for individuals who use the service, which enabled  me to relate and connect with the community.

It made me realise that the service we provide is very beneficial, enables clients to feel safe, promotes safety for people within their own home and increases independence for those within the community, which is what majority of the clients want

By discovering this, I identified that what we do within our job benefits individuals by keeping them safe at home, promotes independence, provides themselves and their family peace of mind. This in turn allows us to identify the reduction of those relying on other services, especially the ambulance services.

The user research enabled all those involved to gather a greater picture and identify gaps with not only the Telecare service, but  in other areas or perhaps develop potential ideas. We’re now looking at how to accommodate these by gathering ideas for potential future services and opportunities including the voluntary sectors  and widening the search for creating innovative ideas on how to improve benefits to those within the community through advanced assistive technology.

However, I believe there were difficulties with these tasks; I’d make a couple of recommendations for those who are thinking about planning user research:

  • Time: Make sure you have enough time to plan each of the points listed, especially if you are planning the User Research in conjunction with other allocated tasks/work priorities.
  • Gather more clients for the “cold-calls”: From my experience with this task, I realised that only gathering 20 clients for identifying and contacting clients was not sufficient as I still needed extra assistance from the contractor service; therefore, I would recommend that the number of clients gathered would need to be extended.