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Improving publications, with a scrum

The Good Practice Team have been running Peer Review sessions for some time now, drawing on experience and expertise from within and outside the GSS to comment on our publications. These constructive comments were well received by the producers, but we found that the subsequent change was sometimes not as rapid or marked as we might hope. To address this we came up with the idea of a scrum where colleagues would meet to review a publication but also provide suggestions for how the publication could be changed and finish off by mocking up a new front page. This then would provide a launch pad for implementing change.

One of the first publications to get the scrum treatment in April 2015 was the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) ‘Summary Hospital-level Mortality Indicator (SHMI) – Deaths associated with hospitalisation’ report. From the extensive feedback, the key messages from the scrum that the production team picked up on were:

  • The title could be clearer
  • A user needs to get quite far into the report to find out what it’s about
  • What the data can and can’t be used for should be transparent

SHMI one pageThe production team used the mock up front page from the scrum to inspire a one-page summary ‘Deaths following time in hospital’ that was published at the end of July 2015 alongside the standard quarterly report. This is a departure from the standard HSCIC publication template and the producers were keen to get as much feedback as possible about whether this format is useful. The new summary is available at: http://www.hscic.gov.uk/shmi-onepagesummary.

The responsible statistician, Chris Dew, welcomed the feedback from the scrum: “Getting user feedback about publications can be quite difficult. The extensive comments from the scrum really helped us think about what the key information in the report is and how to quickly get this across to users. Hospital mortality is a really interesting topic and the ideas from the scrum will open this up to a wider audience. We also feel we can apply similar thinking to our other publications.”

It’s encouraging that the scrum helped HSCIC to put out a new product so quickly and we look forward to seeing their users’ reaction to this. We think this modified approach has given new energy to the review process and will lead to more rapid and wider change.

We are planning more scrums for the future, so let us know if you would like to be part of the pack, or would like your publication to be the ball!