National Osteoporosis Society: using evidence, empathy and collaboration to reshape support and information
  • May 5, 2019

National Osteoporosis Society: using evidence, empathy and collaboration to reshape support and information

The National Osteoporosis Society has an aim that through their work ‘people with osteoporosis are empowered to make choices and manage their condition in ways that best meet their own needs’. Many health charities have a similar ambition, but what are the ‘needs’ of people with the condition, what ‘choices’ do they want to make, and how can the charity have real impact? These are the questions the National Osteoporosis Society wanted to answer when developing their new support and information model in partnership with Alterline.

Life with osteoporosis

The Society knew that key to the success of the new model would be putting evidence about the lives of people with osteoporosis at the heart of decision-making. They also recognised that understanding what people need is not the same as asking them about what they want, and embarked on a landmark research project to explore and map the impact osteoporosis has on people’s lives. 

 Life with Osteoporosis’, the public-facing report which resulted from the initial project covers everything from living with pain and height loss, to sex, employment and finances – a genuine portrayal of the physical, emotional and social impact osteoporosis can have.


There’s not just one type of person with osteoporosis

One of the exciting ways the Life with Osteoporosis data was put to use was in helping the Charity think about groups within the population; rather than trying to build services for one, stereotypical type of person with the condition. Advanced analytical techniques segmented the population into seven user groups based on the impact the condition has on them.

Building on the evidence base

The Life with Osteoporosis findings allowed the charity to fully understand ‘need’ within the population. The next phase of the researchA Good Life with Osteoporosis’ expanded on this; focussing on people’s current experiences of information and support, their appetite for new services and activities, their communication preferences and digital behaviour. This data helped us think more about the ‘choice’ element of a support model–  what do people want, and how do they want to access it?


Finally, a stakeholder workshop and review of the sector resulted in a set of ‘principles for great support’ and evidence about good practice in the sector, helping to make sure we weren’t trying to re-invent the wheel.

Using the evidence to drive innovation and change

Evidence is important, it helps people make the right decisions - but at the end of the day it’s the decisions people make that turn research into meaningful action that drives change.  Bringing people with us, making sure people really ‘got’ the evidence, and enabling them to think big and think differently were really important to the process.

A small project team, comprised of staff from across the charity, met regularly and were the driving force for the project and a crucial communications link with their teams. Members of the project team, with Alterline, also regularly touched base with the Charity’s key advisory committees.

The culmination of all of the work was a two-day ‘lock-in’ workshop that brought together thirty people from across the organisation to work through the evidence and generate ideas and solutions. Based upon principles from the ‘design thinking’ approach, the session combined activities and exercises which helped people empathise with the target audience, define objectives,and think creatively about ideas and solutions.

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A new information and support model

The new model which has emerged sets out an ambitious strategic direction for the charity’s support and information service for the next five to ten years. 

"The goal of the 6-month project was to review and reshape the Charity’s information and support model with evidence on the needs and preferences of people with osteoporosis at the heart. Working with Alterline we gathered evidence through a large-scale survey of people with osteoporosis and a review of best practice in the sector.  The project culminated in a 2-day workshop, facilitated by Alterline.  It was a fantastic opportunity to lock ourselves away, free up our imaginations and for our teams to work collaboratively to re-shape our services.  I was so pleased with how much we achieved with this review, not just in the exciting step change we have set out for our services but also in building relationships across the teams that deliver them."  
Fizz Thompson - Clinical & Operations Director

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