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COMPLETED: Digital support for maintaining physical activity in people with long-term conditions

What promotes and prevents health professionals using ‘digital’ technologies to support people with long-term conditions (LTCs) to maintain physical activity and improve their health and wellbeing?

Principle Investigator - Professor Mary Barker (

Senior Research Assistant – Dr James Gavin (


Prof Mary Barker (PI), Prof Maria Stokes (Co-Lead), Prof Suzanne McDonough (Co-Lead at RCSI), Mrs Luisa Holt, Dr Aoife Stephenson (RCSI), Mr Paul Muckelt, Dr Nisreen Alwan, Dr Katherine Bradbury, Dr James Faulkner (University of Winchester), Dr Dorit Kunkel, Dr Euan Sadler, Prof Sandy Jack, Mrs Rachael Eckford, Mr Jem Lawson (PPI) and Mr Ranj Parmar (PPI)

Project partners

•       Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland

•       University of Winchester

What did we find?

We interviewed 15 GPs and health professionals to find out their experiences of using digital technologies, such as online consultations, mobile-phone applications (or ‘apps’) and websites, to support people with LTCs to manage their health.

We now have a better understanding of the factors preventing and promoting the use of digital technologies by health professionals to support people with LTCs in the NHS. These included:

  • Preventing: one ‘app’ will not suit all LTCs, ‘apps’ must be user-friendly and accurate, clinicians need to dedicate time to the technology, security risks, patients need to have digital literacy, and long-term investment is required (time and finance).

  • Promoting: ‘apps’ being evidence based, peer/social support of GP networks (including positive feedback), charity endorsement, COVID-19 changing people’s attitudes to digital health, ‘apps’ being linked to a hospital’s IT systems, accountability/monitoring of ‘apps’, and digital champions

What difference will this make?

Better understanding of the factors preventing and promoting the use of digital technologies by NHS healthcare professionals can help researchers develop new assessments and interventions to help people with LTCs to self-manage their conditions.

In future, it could inform a regional evaluation of existing self-management programmes and initiatives to support people with LTCs to maintain their health and physical activity, from a digital perspective

What are we doing with this?

We are finalising a research paper for journal publication

We are interpreting the research findings with a view to ‘implement’, or help the uptake of the knowledge into practice in writing the paper

In conjunction with the ‘non-digital’ MOTH study, we are in the process of applying for funding through the Impact Fund to work with MOVE Consulting ( who have specific expertise with physical activity behaviour change.

The aim is to produce a plan for how best to proceed with improving partnership working within Wessex.

What next?

We plan to combine the non-digital and digital findings from the MOTH programme and apply for funding to evaluate existing example(s) of good practice, which currently support people with LTCs to maintain physical activity (with and without digital technologies), for health and wellbeing.

This would be with a view to identifying beneficial modifications to both partnership working and the ways in which they are supported with self-management of their lifelong physical activity levels.

A suitable funding call is the NIHR Research for Patient Benefit (RfPB) programme (tiers 2 or 3), with the next call targeted at Methodologists.

Non-Digital Moth Summary


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