Turning Public Leisure Facilities into Active Wellbeing Hubs with Technology

As public leisure centres evolve into ‘active wellbeing hubs’, leveraging data and personalisation at scale becomes a necessity for organisations to drive social impact and tackle health inequalities. Investing in digital transformation with a focus on integrating with business intelligence tools can revolutionise these facilities, improving community health and fitness while achieving operational cost savings.
Jon Dickson
Jon Dickson
July 3rd, 2024
Turning Public Leisure Facilities into Active Wellbeing Hubs with Technology

In the face of the UK’s staggering national debt of £2.65 trillion, equivalent to 96.5% of the country's GDP, public sector leisure facilities are a beacon of hope. Despite receiving only £1.4 billion in funding, these facilities generate a remarkable £9.5 billion in social value and health improvements through 3,000 public leisure centres, proving that these are pivotal to reform. With a staggering 66% of cancer rehabilitation taking place within their walls (Leisure DB), it's safe to say that 'active wellbeing' is already in full swing. But how can leisure operators maintain this level of delivery in the face of poor funding and growing expectation?

The Future of Public Leisure: Active Wellbeing Hubs

An 'Active Wellbeing Hub' is a modern, community-centric facility that transcends the traditional offerings of a gym or leisure centre. It integrates a holistic approach to health and wellbeing, combining physical fitness, preventive health care, and community engagement to enhance the overall wellness of its community.

With Public leisure facilities building relationships with those within the primary care networks – notably GPs, Physios, and social subscribers, there exists a broader effort to enhance community health and wellness by leveraging local resources and services.

By incorporating leisure facilities into the primary care network, the goal is to promote preventative health measures, increase physical activity, and support mental wellbeing, thereby reducing the burden on traditional healthcare services.

The fact that leisure services are starting to be formally recognised as part of Primary Care Network underscores the importance of a holistic approach to health, acknowledging that community-based activities and resources play a crucial role in maintaining and improving public health. This initiative aligns with the NHS's wider strategy to integrate health services and promote community-based care.

In addition and as a result of this PCN status, Public leisure facilities can now utilise the Additional Roles Reimbursement Scheme too. This scheme, introduced in 2019, aims to enhance access to general practice by funding 17 new roles within the multidisciplinary team.

In Leisure DB's 2024 State of The UK Fitness Industry report, Alliance Leisure's Commercial Director, James Foley highlights the use of this scheme to fund health and wellbeing coaches. However, it also provides the potential for organisations that recognise the need to become more data-driven to appoint 'Digital and Transformation Leads' to spearhead the adoption of new technology and improve community-focused, leisure-situated care delivery, which could result in significant cost savings through greater operational efficiencies.

Digital Transformation: A Necessity for Public Leisure

Public leisure facilities often grapple with outdated systems, a consequence of prolonged procurement cycles and thinly stretched budgets. It's no secret this technological lag inhibits their ability to provide modern, efficient digital services and hampers efforts to enhance user experiences.

Nevertheless, the sector is witnessing a burgeoning desire for digital transformation, recognising its potential to personalise customer experiences at scale and significantly improve operational efficiency.

To spearhead this digital evolution, the appointment of Digital and Transformation Leads is certainly one option. These professionals could be pivotal in crafting strategic plans to develop robust digital infrastructures tailored to the unique needs of public leisure facilities. Their roles would encompass the implementation of a variety of digital projects, each contributing to a more streamlined and responsive service delivery model.

Key Digital Transformation Projects

  1. Cloud Telephony: Transitioning to cloud-based telephony systems to enable seamless communication, reducing costs and improving reliability. This shift could allow for more efficient management of membership inquiries and bookings, enhancing the overall member experience.

  2. Digital Triage: Implementing digital triage systems to facilitate the efficient sorting and prioritisation of service requests. By automating initial assessments, facilities could ensure that leisure members receive timely and appropriate care, improving satisfaction and health outcomes.

  3. Online Signposting: Developing comprehensive online signposting tools to help guide users to relevant services and information with ease. This would then reduce confusion and enhance the accessibility of facilities or services, particularly for those seeking specific health and wellbeing programmes.

  4. Social Media Integration: Leveraging social media platforms to engage with the community and promote services to significantly boost visibility and member engagement. Social media also provides a valuable channel for member feedback and communication, fostering a more connected and responsive service environment.

Broader Impact of Digital Transformation

The benefits of these digital transformation projects extend beyond immediate operational improvements. They also contribute to broader PCN objectives such as:

  • Improving Access to Care and Supporting Population Health Management: Digital tools can facilitate better access to care by providing users with convenient ways to engage with facilities and their services. For instance, online booking systems and virtual consultations can make it easier for individuals to access the support and/or activity they need. Moreover, data collected through these systems can inform community health management strategies, enabling facilities to address local health trends and needs more effectively.

  • Driving Operational Efficiency and Enhancing Staff Experiences: Automating routine tasks and streamlining processes can significantly reduce the administrative burden on leisure operations staff, allowing them to focus on higher-value activities, resulting in greater job satisfaction and operational efficiency. Enhanced digital systems also mean that staff can more easily access and share information, facilitating better teamwork and leisure member service delivery.

  • Promoting Integrated Working at Neighborhood and Place Levels: Digital transformation supports integrated working by enabling different services and organisations to collaborate more effectively. Shared digital platforms and data can facilitate coordinated care with local NHS bodies, ensuring that users receive comprehensive support that addresses all aspects of their health and wellbeing needs.

Digital Transformation For Better Leisure Service Delivery

Flipping back into the effect on members, lets look at the study published in the MDPI journal, emphasising the importance of service experience in fitness centres in general, detailing how the perceptions and positive experiences of members significantly predict satisfaction and future intentions. Both that perception and experience being opportunities for leisure operators to enact in the digital realms and not just the physical spaces within their facilities.

Leisure centres should focus on understanding (through data) and enhancing (through personalised digital experiences) not just how users perceive but interact with their local community facilities. This would not only improve their member retention, but also see a positive impact on adoption of their facility as an 'active wellbeing hub', further alleviating the burden on the NHS.

This finding underscores the importance of digital transformation projects aimed at improving access to care and supporting population health management. By implementing advanced digital tools, public leisure facilities can provide users with seamless, high-quality experiences that meet and exceed their expectations and that drive higher adoption rates.

Furthermore, integrating measurement tools like CSAT and NPS surveys into digital platforms used by public leisure facilities can provide valuable insights into user experiences, guiding continuous improvements in service delivery.

Enhancing Service Delivery in Cancer Pre-habilitation and Rehabilitation

As highlighted earlier, public leisure centres play a crucial role in cancer prehabilitation and rehabilitation, with 66% of such programmes occurring within these facilities. This significant involvement underscores the potential of these active wellbeing centres to improve health outcomes through targeted interventions.

By implementing smart systems that engage members at scale and leverage personalisation based on interest tags, such as those related to cancer recovery, these leisure centres can exponentially enhance their service delivery.

Smart Systems for Personalised Leisure Member Engagement

Smart automated systems can revolutionise how public leisure centres deliver cancer prehabilitation and rehabilitation services. In some cases these systems utilise data analytics and machine learning to identify individual members in need of engagement leveraging their preferences, enabling the creation of personalised health plans. Here’s how:

  1. Data Collection and Analysis:

    • Health Assessments: Regular health assessments can be conducted to gather data on each member’s condition and progress.

    • Behavior Tracking: Monitoring attendance, exercise patterns, and feedback to understand member engagement and satisfaction.

    • Interest Tokens: Using tokens related to specific interests, such as cancer recovery, to tailor communication and support.

  2. Tailored Communication:

    • Personalised Notifications: Sending customised notifications and reminders about upcoming sessions, new programmes, or motivational messages based on individual progress and needs.

    • Educational Content: Providing personalised educational materials about cancer recovery, nutrition, and mental health support, helping members stay informed and motivated.

  3. Adaptive Programme Design:

    • Customised Exercise Plans: Developing exercise plans that are specifically designed for individuals undergoing cancer treatment or recovery, taking into account their unique physical and emotional needs.

    • Flexible Scheduling: Offering flexible scheduling options to accommodate the varying energy levels and commitments of members, ensuring they can participate in programmes at their own pace.

Public Leisure Facilities Responsibility for Preventative Health Care

Public Leisure share of the responsibility for preventative health care is not insignificant but happily aligns with their existing services and facility features, making them ideal venues for fostering healthier communities...but communicating this and educating their local communities remains a challenge.

Leisure facilities can however, leverage automation and smart campaigns to enhance the delivery of their role in preventative health care. By utilising business intelligence and automations, these hubs can deliver targeted education and promote healthy lifestyles more effectively. For instance, an automated campaign focusing on "The Role of Strength Training in Public Health" could include:

  • Personalized Fitness Plans: Automated systems can create customized strength training routines based on individual health profiles.

  • Educational Content: Regular updates and educational materials sent via email or mobile apps, highlighting the benefits of strength training.

  • Virtual Classes and Tutorials: Online sessions and instructional videos on proper strength training techniques and safety tips.

  • Progress Tracking: Digital platforms that allow users to monitor their progress, set goals, and receive motivational feedback.

While this is just one example, strength training offers numerous benefits for longevity and overall health, making it a powerful tool in public health:

  • Chronic Disease Prevention: The NHS emphasizes that regular strength training can reduce the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain cancers.

  • Weight Management: Helps in maintaining a healthy weight by increasing muscle mass and metabolism.

  • Mental Health Improvement: Reduces symptoms of anxiety and depression, and enhances mood and energy levels.

  • Quality of Life Enhancement: Improves physical function, allowing for greater independence and a higher quality of life.

By marrying automation and smart campaigns with this kind of targeted, health-focused education operators can effectively transform community health, particularly through the like of strength training, which has far-reaching benefits for public health. This proactive approach not only improves individual wellbeing but also supports the sustainability of the broader healthcare system.

Empowering Public Leisure with AI

Keepme’s automation and personalisation capabilities are crucial for achieving greater efficiencies and increased revenue, or in the case of public leisure, significant cost savings. By reducing the burden on staff and boosting sales and marketing output, Keepme can transform the way public leisure facilities operate. Importantly, Keepme’s AI and business intelligence suite enable these benefits without requiring additional team resources.

With Keepme, public leisure facilities do not need to hire data scientists or team members skilled in AI or machine learning. While we talked earlier about the potential to draw down funding through the Additional Roles Reimbursement Scheme, this isn't the only option for bringing to life a meaningful digital transformation.

Keepme is designed to be user-friendly, allowing facilities to activate and reap the operational benefits without the need for extensive training or additional resources. This ease of use means that leisure teams can quickly integrate Keepme’s capabilities to:

  • Automate member engagement, fostering stronger connections with the community.

  • Personalize experiences at scale, catering to individual needs and preferences.

  • Enhance operational efficiency, reducing costs and maximising resource utilisation.

As public leisure facilities transition into active wellbeing hubs, embracing data-centric solutions and leveraging personalisation at scale is essential. By integrating with business intelligence tools like Keepme, these facilities can significantly enhance community health and fitness while achieving operational cost savings.

What's Next?

Public leisure facilities are integral to the UK's health and wellness landscape, having more than proven their worth, generating significant social and health benefits despite limited funding. The future for some will lie in evolving these facilities into 'Active Wellbeing Hubs,' leveraging digital transformation and holistic health approaches. By embracing digital tools like AI, cloud telephony, and smart systems, these hubs can enhance service delivery, improve member experiences, and support preventative health care. There are multiple routes to be considered, here are 5 approaches to consider which approach or combination provides the best path for your facility.

  1. Invest in Digital Transformation: Appoint Digital and Transformation Leads to spearhead technological advancements.

  2. Implement Key Digital Projects: Focus on cloud telephony, digital triage, online signposting, and social media integration.

  3. Leverage Automation and AI: Use tools like Keepme to automate member engagement and personalise experiences.

  4. Enhance Preventative Health Care: Utilise smart systems for personalised health plans and targeted education campaigns.

  5. Promote Community Engagement: Strengthen connections through personalised communication and adaptive programme design.

The Pivot to Active Wellbeing - Useful sources of Inspiration & Information

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