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DONOR: (Digital cOachiNg fOr fRailty) Implementation of a digital health coaching intervention for olderpeople with frailty in Wessex

Principle Investigator: Professor Jane Murphy

Team members: Dr Euan Sadler, Dr Michele Board, Dr Kat Bradbury, Professor Mike Vassallo, Dr Simone Yule, Dr Dawn-Marie Walker, Sandy Ciccognani, Crystal Dennis.

Partners: Bournemouth University, University of Southampton, University Hospitals Dorset NHS Foundation Trust, The Adam Practice, Dorset CCG, Wessex AHSN, Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust


Start: 1/4/2022

Ends: 30/9/2023 

Bournemouth University web page

Lay Summary

Frailty is a condition that affects one in ten people over the age of 65. It means people are at higher risk of falls, disability and poorer quality of life. Some may struggle with decreased energy levels, poor appetite, lower strength and having difficulty with household tasks such as shopping and cooking. As the population ages, frailty also impacts on health and social care services because of more GP appointments and increased hospital and care homes admissions. More people own a smartphone with applications (apps) and have access to the internet. This technology can help people to live well by enabling access to person-centred advice and care. It can help share in decision making to meet well-being and health needs and reduce the burden on health and social care systems. However little research has been done, particularly for people with frailty, living at home.

This study aims to explore whether a digital approach could be used alongside support from health coaches to help the lifestyle management of frailty (in its early stages). The approach has been used across the NHS in people with long term conditions which we think will transfer to people with frailty. We will work together with people living with frailty, their carers, health coaches and health care professionals (key stakeholders).

Design and methods
We will do this through two work-packages (WPs) with people from 2 areas in Wessex (Dorset and Hampshire). WP1 will develop and test a new digital approach. It will include interviews with 10 people with frailty and family carers, 20 health care professionals and health coaches. In WP2, we will train health coaches to use the digital approach and measure how well it works in people with frailty.

We will collect data including physical activity, eating and drinking, social engagement, quality of life, frailty status, costs of the approach. We will also ask people about their experiences of using it. We aim to recruit 20 people with frailty and their carers, 20 health coaches, 20 health care professionals and commissioners of care services from both areas to do this. This information will help us plan for carrying out a larger study to implement the approach wider across Wessex. We will regularly seek advice from doctors, nurses, commissioners of services during the project.

Patient and public involvement (PPI)
A group of family carers and health coaches will support the project by membership of a group to support project design, delivery, analysis and reporting and advise on how we share the findings.

We aim to share the findings in academic and professional publications, social media, a website, conferences as well as deliver an end of project stakeholder event.