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Nurse turned digital health expert praises the power of research

Chris Brough says a chance opportunity led to a change in his career path and now as a digital healthcare pioneer he is telling his story to mark International Clinical Trials Day.

In his role as Digital Health Lead at the Leicester Diabetes Centre, Chris is the architect behind several award-winning online programmes. He builds courses where there is an identifiable need on the back of research, using pilot programmes to shape the effectiveness of digital interventions.

Since 2012, Chris has worked with ARC EM on the implementation team supporting a number of studies, including BABYSTEPS study, where he helped to implement and evaluate a group structured education programme to support women with a history of gestational diabetes.

Chris trained in Leicester at the Leicester Royal Infirmary, with his nursing career spanning back to 1995. As well as clinical work on the wards, his role was also focussed on rehabilitation.

He is passionate about research because “it identifies a need in healthcare and looks to provide a solution ”, but as a cardiac nurse it took a chance opening to divert his attention from working purely in clinical care.

Chris explained: “It was just by chance that there was an opportunity to develop an online cardiac rehab programme. Whilst working as a cardiac rehab nurse I was asked to get involved and the programme we developed, Activate Your Heart, became the first programme of its kind to be used in the UK. This then quickly led to helping develop a similar programme for people with COPD.

“Research is about improving the care we provide and digital health is playing a larger part of people’s lives more now than ever before. In the early years getting people to adhere to online programmes was difficult but as the technology improved and access to the internet became easier, we were able to develop feature-rich programmes that are evidenced-based and could be accessed anywhere and at any time.

“More and more people are accessing health information online than ever before, but the information is not always guaranteed to be safe or valid. It’s got to be accurate and reliable otherwise it can do more harm than good. The programmes we have developed, over the years, through research have offered people greater choice in how to access the information that is appropriate for them and at time and place that is convenient as well.”

Chris has been at the heart of MyDesmond, a project which has seen the successful online adaptation of the long-established and highly-successful type 2 diabetes structured education programme DESMOND. The MyDesmond app is now on the NHS app library following a robust assessment process to ensure that it adhered to national standards, regulations and industry best practice. It is now being used throughout the UK, providing reliable information, expert advice and peer support for many people with type 2 diabetes.

Chris added: “During this pandemic, we have seen a rise in the number of people joining MyDesmond, due to being unable to access traditional face to face groups. It is now benefiting many who have recently been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes during this isolation period.”

MyDesmond is also being piloted in Australia where it has been showing some very positive results.

Chris is currently working on a number of digital health projects at the Leicester Diabetes Centre and is also supporting clinical teams to hold virtual clinics as the NHS changes the way it works in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

Published on: 20 May 2020