Implementation, uptake and use of a digital COVID-19 symptom tracker in English care homes in the coronavirus pandemic: a mixed-methods, multi-locality case study

Pauline A Nelson, Fay Bradley, Akbar Ullah, Will Whittaker, Lisa Brunton, Vid Calovski, Annemarie Money, Dawn Dowding, Nicky Cullum, Paul Wilson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


BACKGROUND: COVID-19 spread rapidly in UK care homes for older people in the early pandemic. National infection control recommendations included remote resident assessment. A region in North-West England introduced a digital COVID-19 symptom tracker for homes to identify early signs of resident deterioration to facilitate care responses. We examined the implementation, uptake and use of the tracker in care homes across four geographical case study localities in the first year of the pandemic.

METHODS: This was a rapid, mixed-methods, multi-locality case study. Tracker uptake was calculated using the number of care homes taking up the tracker as a proportion of the total number of care homes in a locality. Mean tracker use was summarised at locality level and compared. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with professionals involved in tracker implementation and used to explore implementation factors across localities. Template Analysis with the Consolidated Framework for Implementation Research (CFIR) guided the interpretation of qualitative data.

RESULTS: Uptake varied across the four case study localities ranging between 13.8 and 77.8%. Tracker use decreased in all localities over time at different rates, with average use ranging between 18 and 58%. The implementation context differed between localities and the process of implementation deviated over time from the initially planned strategy, for stakeholder engagement and care homes' training. Four interpretative themes reflected the most influential factors appearing to affect tracker uptake and use: (1) the process of implementation, (2) implementation readiness, (3) clarity of purpose/perceived value and (4) relative priority in the context of wider system pressures.

CONCLUSIONS: Our study findings resonate with the digital solutions evidence base prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, suggesting three key factors that can inform future development and implementation of rapid digital responses in care home settings even in times of crisis: an incremental approach to implementation with testing of organisational readiness and attention to implementation climate, particularly the innovation's fit with local contexts (i.e. systems, infrastructure, work processes and practices); involvement of end-users in innovation design and development; and enabling users' easy access to sustained, high-quality, appropriate training and support to enable staff to adapt to digital solutions.

Original languageEnglish
Article number7
JournalImplementation science communications
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 17 Jan 2023


  • Care homes
  • social care
  • Digital interventions
  • Implementation
  • Mixed-methods


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