Centre for Death & Society

Extending end of life care with social media


Investigators: Profs. Tony Walter & Malcolm Johnson, CDAS; Prof Peter Johnson and Dr Rachid Hourizi, Department of Computer Sciences, University of Bath

Business Partner: St. Christopher's Hospice, Sydenham

Awarding body: This research is funded by the Knowledge Transfer Champion fund, University of Bath

Amount awarded: £10,000.

Duration: July 2011 - January 2012 (funded) Ongoing (unfunded)


Project rationale and aims

Departmental themes
Institute for Policy Research themes

St. Christopher’s Hospice are making a strategic push to extend the services it provides to non-resident patients, aiming to become more of a social hub for those patients. This is an important effort for the hospice given that they can register more than fifteen hundred patients at any given time but have fewer than seventy beds.

As part of that push, the hospice will use their own staff time and receive University of Bath assistance investigating the extent to which social and collaborative media technologies can be used to reduce the isolation (‘social exclusion’) experienced by many of its non-resident patients. This objective reflects the forward-looking, innovative culture of the hospice.

Hospice and university staff will work together to take the knowledge gained from previous work undertaken by the Department of Computer Science and apply it to the Hospice setting. The initial transfer activity proposed here will involve the use of models and technologies which have allowed us to understand, specify and assess both successful and unsuccessful collaboration, cooperation and communication in other settings, with the aim of understanding and starting to mitigate well reported problems of communication, cooperation and collaboration (i.e. social exclusion) in an internationally renowned hospice.

In the course of that activity, Bath and St Christopher’s Hospice will

  • gather the different understandings of exclusion, and desire for inclusion, held by 3 key groups within the hospice (patients, volunteers and central hospice staff)
  • develop a shared understanding of at least part of that exclusion / desire for inclusion
  • draw upon our previous work to map that common understanding to social and collaborative media tools that can be used to reduce exclusion i.e. increase the desired communication, cooperation and collaboration
  • develop an action plan in collaboration with the hospice that will a) allow the most appropriate of those tools to be integrated into hospice practise in the short term and b) highlight areas in which further tools could usefully be extended or developed from scratch for specific use in end of life care.

The hospice will then showcase the results of this project to other end of life care providers and where applicable implement the action plan.

Project benefits

For the hospice and its patients

  • greater understanding of the social inclusion desired i) by patients and ii) for patients by hospice volunteers and central hospice staff
  • specification of (digital) tools with which the hospice can deliver some or all of that social inclusion without substantial additional cost (‘more for less’)
  • a concrete step towards the foundation of a wider ‘social hub’ centred on the hospice (i.e. a contribution to their strategic objective to move beyond traditional hospice care and towards greater service to non-resident patients and the local community).

For the University

  • a closer working relationship with the internationally renowned St. Christopher’s hospice
  • evidence that our work in separate but related domains can be usefully applied to the promotion of social inclusion during end of life care

Importantly, however, this project will also enable us to reach a wider group of end of life care providers who are interested in our approach but are more likely to collaborate with us once we have evidence of successful impact.

This scoping project will be used as the basis for longer, wider reaching research within the large and growing end of life care sector. We envisage that research being undertaken in collaboration with hospices, nursing homes and NHS trusts and being funded by commercial nursing home providers, the NHS and/or research councils.

Project outputs and impacts

In the course of this scoping project, we will deliver the following:

  • Separate requirements specifications for the different hospice stakeholders involved in the project (patients, outreach volunteers and central hospice staff)
  • A report on both the common ground within and the key differences between the requirements specifications developed during our work with each group of stakeholders
  • A further report mapping both a) currently available technologies and b) technologies to be developed during follow on work to c) the commonly identified social inclusion requirements identified during the scoping portion of this project
  • A short-term implementation plan for the most relevant existing technologies described in 3a) above, along with a road map to longer-term implementation of the new technologies described in 3b) i.e. technologies in need of either adaptation or development from scratch if they are to be useful in hospice and end of life care settings.

Find out more about this project

Name: Dr Rachid Hourizi
Title: Director
Department: Dept of Computer Science
Location: 1 West 3.64
E-mail: maprh@bath.ac.uk
Phone: work+44 (0) 1225 385934