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Optimising resources from the internet in primary care consultations

Project Description

The use of digital technologies is increasingly offered up as a potential solution for health and social care services which are struggling to respond to demand. The internet is increasingly an integrated part of most people’s everyday lives and there are moves to engage people with self-care which are often mediated via the internet. In this context, we know from existing research studies that discussion of prior use of the internet and use by health professionals in consultations is problematic.

The project will comprise of secondary analysis of an existing dataset (Harnessing Resources from the Internet to maximise outcomes from GP consultations (HaRI) study) to identify ways in which the internet is raised and discussed in everyday practice. The practices, once identified, will form the basis of qualitative empirical work with health professionals and patients to co-produce open skills training to implement the identified practices with the aim of maximising the value of the internet in primary care consultations.

The HaRI data set comprise 281 videotaped consultations and brief surveys, 28 interviews with selected patients and interviews with all participating GPs (10 in total).

The initial identification of strategies will be done using conversation analysis. Conversation analysis focuses on detailed exploration of the features of the ways people talk and interact with others and the interactional consequences for how interactions can develop. In this work proposed here, we are interested in what happens when the internet is raised by either the patients or the doctor, how the other person responds and what this means for the ongoing consultation. The second part of the work is to develop what has been termed as “open skills training”, that is training based on evidence from real life practice, to consider what happens in practice and understand the consequences of any actions. The co-production work will employ a range of qualitative techniques (such as observations, focus groups, interviews).

All candidates should hold a Master’s qualification (or complete their Master’s by September 2019) in an appropriate discipline and have a minimum of a 2:1 or equivalent in their first degree. Applicants should preferably have knowledge of the UK health and care system. All applicants are required to have excellent written and verbal communication skills. They should also be willing to work collaboratively in multi-disciplinary and multi-professional teams.

Project-specific skills and experience required

Skills in qualitative data collection and thematic analysis.
Interest in medical interaction.
Interest in medical communication and the development of strategies for implementation. Interest in the theoretical and practical issues of implementing research findings into practice.
Knowledge and experience of conversation analysis.


For general enquiries, please email:
For project specific queries, please contact: Dr Fiona Stevenson ()


For applications and other information please visit our main NIHR CLAHRC North Thames funded PhD studentships page:

CLAHRC Research area: Innovation and Implementation Science

How good is research at University College London in Public Health, Health Services and Primary Care?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 159.75

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