Aims and scope
The Dysphagia E-learning project was initiated in 2013 with a pre-study phase. The purpose of Dysphagia E-learning was to develop new innovative solutions for health professionals and patients that can prevent deaths, pneumonia and malnutrition for patients and citizens with dysphagia. Dysphagia refers to a condition where a person has difficulties swallowing (food, drinks and saliva). If untreated and/or undetected, it can lead to risk of suffocation, pneumonia, dehydration and malnutrition.
The project was very much focused on ensuring the creation of a solution that would benefit everyone in the project by 1) addressing the needs of the public partners in dealing with dysphagia; 2) creating a commercially viable product for the private partner that would be purchased by the participating public partners; 3) implementing a solution in order to make a difference. There was, in other words, a strong focus on developing a new solution and facilitating implementation of that solution.
The innovative output of the project was an e-learning program aimed at improving the competencies of health professionals or employees working with the target patient/citizen group in detecting and responding to symptoms of dysphagia. This technology supports health professionals by providing inter-professional collaboration, as health professionals have been in charge of the information shared in the program, which is accessed and used by other health professionals. The program is accessed online and entails a combination of videos, text, pictures and sound, where the user is presented with important information about dysphagia (e.g. symptoms and complications) and quizzed on their own knowledge (e.g. which citizen/patient groups in your daily work are more prone to dysphagia).
Main collaborative innovation conditions
The partnership was very dynamic, as ideas were generated through interaction, discussions and dialogue among the public partners and between the users, the public partners and the private partner. For instance, the first part of the partnership was oriented towards identifying user needs and key problems related to dysphagia. In this process, the public partners had many discussions, where they shared examples and experiences from their respective organisations and through these discussions agreed on the main challenges to be addressed through the partnership. There was an open dialogue and a genuine interest in learning from each other, where the coordinator continuously encouraged them to focus on common problems and solutions.
In general, the partners were from the beginning very intent on developing a solution that would make a difference in practice and be put to use (i.e., implementing the solution). The user-representatives and public partners were frontrunners in promoting the e-learning program within and outside their own organisations to reduce complications from undetected cases of dysphagia.
The project can overall be characterized by a relatively successful user involvement and high degree of user-driven development and implementation. The success of the project is directly related to the fact that users were involved throughout the whole project and that the entire project was based on user-needs. The involved users were highly motivated, as they recognized the need for the e-learning program to address the societal costs of dysphagia. The logic behind involving users in this project is closely associated with the implementation focus of the project; the more relevant and helpful the solution is for the users, the more likely it is that it will be successfully implemented.
Implications and lessons learned
The success of this project seems to be primarily driven by the high level of motivation and focus on implementation in the project team. The public representatives and user representatives in the project team were experts in the field of dysphagia and really believed that the e-learning program would be a game changer and that it was necessary in order to improve health professionals’ competencies. Because of this expertise, the development of the solution was very much user-driven to ensure that it would be beneficial for users. This motivation meant that the participants were quite dedicated to the project and to ensuring successful implementation. Moreover, the private business that participated was at that point leading in e-learning in healthcare and had a background in public healthcare. Hence, they were able to speak the same language as the public and user representatives in the project team, paving the way for a more fruitful collaboration.
To read more about the case study, see D7.1 – Practices of external collaboration for service delivery. Comparative case studies on external collaboration in eHealth partnerships report.
About the Author
Lena Brogaard, Roskilde University