Evaluating the impact of an online service

Alongside the development of SH:24, the evaluation team is looking at the outcomes of online sexual health services. We are asking: what works, for whom does it work and how does it work? We are looking at every element of the service.  

Right now we are researching who needs help completing the testing process and what help they need. Sharmani Barnard will be interviewing users who did not return the test to understand why. She is interested in the type of support that people need at every step in the process, from ordering the test, to taking the samples, through to receiving the results. In each case she is using a realist evaluation framework that asks what types of support work for which people, and in what circumstances. It is clear, for example, that the needs of a first time user of SH:24 might be quite different from regular visitors of the site. We will then study what type of support people actually use on the website and whether this means they are more likely to return the test. We plan to work with the design team in parallel – sharing insights and learnings from our very different, but equally valid research approaches.

The economic evaluation team are taking a completely different approach. They have worked over the last 18 months to collate data on all STI testing that happens in Lambeth and Southwark.  This baseline dataset is now complete and will be used to monitor the impact SH:24 will have on local testing behaviour. We want to know how many people shift from clinic based services to online services and how many complex cases does SH:24 refer back to clinics. Understanding this interface between face-to-face and web-based services will inform how we work together in the future.