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The University of Southampton
Psychology

LifeGuide: Developing Internet-based Support for Healthcare

The unique LifeGuide platform, led by Professor Lucy Yardley and developed by a multidisciplinary team at the University of Southampton, allows researchers to flexibly and iteratively create, modify and evaluate digital behaviour change interventions in a way that was not previously possible.

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Context and research challenge

Interventions are packages of support often used by health providers to help individuals make changes to their behaviour and manage their health problems. However, such services are costly and not readily available or accessible to everyone.

Digital interventions can be accessed at any time and provide a low-cost, convenient solution to support people to self-manage their conditions. Whilst they are cheaper than face-to-face interventions, there are high initial development costs, and interventions cannot be easily modified once programmed.

Our solution

Professor Lucy Yardley, in close collaboration with Dr Mark Weal (Associate Professor, Web and Internet Science), initiated and led the development of a unique set of software tools known as LifeGuide. The interactive nature of interventions developed using LifeGuide means that the particular situation, concerns and preferences of target users form the basis of an intensive support programme that can deliver personalised guidance and feedback to members of the public and health professionals.  

What is the impact?

From 2013 to 2020, in collaboration with Professor Paul Little (Professor of Primary Care Research), Yardley secured funding totalling more than £50 million from providers including the NIHR, MRC, DoH, EU and medical charities to use the LifeGuide software tools to efficiently develop and evaluate digital interventions for a wide range of health problems, including weight management.

The development of LifeGuide interventions has been shaped by systematic analysis of the needs of users, using a process of developing and optimising digital interventions that is now known and disseminated as the LifeGuide team’s distinctive and highly successful ‘Person-Based Approach’. The LifeGuide software tools and Person-Based Approach have been disseminated freely and widely across the public, third and private sectors, and used by thousands of researchers across the UK and internationally.

LifeGuide interventions to combat infection and the rise of antimicrobial resistance

The team developed an MRC-funded LifeGuide intervention to promote handwashing to reduce the spread of respiratory infection in the home – particularly seasonal and pandemic flu – which was trialled in 20,000 UK adults. There was a 15% reduction in episodes of infection, including reduced frequency and severity of illness, and reduced consultations and antibiotic prescriptions.

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The resulting Germ Defence website was endorsed and made available by NICE as a recommended resource to support antimicrobial stewardship in the general population.

In March 2020, Yardley obtained funding from UKRI to update Germ Defence for the prevention of COVID-19. Germ Defence was rapidly translated into over 20 languages and disseminated to over 100,000 users worldwide.

The team also developed a LifeGuide intervention to reduce unnecessary antibiotic prescribing across Europe.  The intervention reduced prescribing rates by 20% in 246 GP practices (4,360 patients) in the UK, Spain, Poland, Belgium and the Netherlands.

LifeGuide interventions to support patient and public self-management of health

LifeGuide enabled digital access to a self-guided DVD/booklet intervention that used breathing exercises to improve outcomes for patients with asthma. The intervention improved quality of life in a trial of 655 patients in 34 GP practices, and through partnerships with the Ménière’s Society and VEDA, has since been accessed by tens of thousands of users.

The team developed a LifeGuide intervention to support people with dizziness due to vestibular (inner ear) problems to carry out balance retraining exercises. A study of 296 patients in 54 GP practices showed that the intervention was effective at improving symptoms. ‘Balance Retraining’ has been made available to clinicians worldwide and attracted registrations from thousands of users.

Associated projects

LifeGuide Online

 

Key Publications

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