Accessibility and inclusion in digital health
Accessibility and inclusion in digital health

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Accessibility and inclusion in digital health

1 Why create digital citizens?

While digital health technology can mean better access to and control of patients’ information, health and care, more control of patient health and shared care, the people most likely to benefit from digital health are least likely to do so. According to the NHS Digital Report (2019) 11 million people, or almost one-fifth of the population, in the UK lack the skills to engage with digital technology and some don’t use technology at all. NHS Digital suggest that those more likely to be affected include the following people:

  • older people
  • people in lower income groups
  • people without a job
  • people in social housing
  • people with disabilities
  • people with fewer educational qualifications and those who left school prior to 16
  • people living in rural areas
  • people whose first language is not English.
(NHS Digital, 2019, p. 11)

To address this, NHS Digital published a guide to assist commissioning groups and NHS managers to develop initiatives to enable people who may currently be or feel excluded to become ‘digital citizens’ and to access health care. This is the focus of the next activity.

Activity 1 Digital Ambassadors: creating digital citizens

First, read the article ‘Being a digital ambassador for young carers’ [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] , in which Amen Dhesi gives an insight into the value of being a digital ambassador.

Next, read the case studies on Ron and Simon from Good Things Foundation.

This will help you to complete the grid below about the potential benefits for Ron and Simon in being trained by digital ambassadors to use technology to access health care.

Ron Simon
What was the issue?
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Which services were accessed?
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What were the benefits of accessing a service?
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Words: 0
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Discussion

1. Ron

a. What was the issue?

Ron was homeless, unemployed and living in a tent by the side of the road. He had physical and mental health issues, in particular with arthritis and anxiety. He had a gambling addiction and was eating outdated food.

b. Which services were accessed?

He accessed the services offered by both the Good Things Foundation’s NHS Widening Digital Inclusion programme and Inspire Communities. He also had help via two homeless charities, a job club and the Learn My Way website.

c. What were the benefits of accessing the services?

Ron had received help in applying for a flat, which he moved into within a month. From being wary of computers, he was able to navigate an online system to choose a new GP practice and book an appointment near to his home. He is receiving help to manage his finances and his gambling addiction, and feels empowered by being included in decisions about his health. His experiences of accessing services and being trained in digital technology have transformed his life.

Simon

a. What was the issue?

Simon has Type 2 diabetes and has battled with his weight for years. He was concerned for his health.

b. Which services were accessed?

He approached his GP, who signposted him to online services including the Good Things Foundation and NHS Widening Digital Inclusion programme, and a digital surgery where tutors advised him on his diet and ways of seeking out recipes which were low in carbohydrates.

c. What were the benefits of accessing the services?

He is much happier in himself, is inspired and feels empowered. He has learned that instead of cutting down he can have healthy alternatives to help him to manage his weight and diabetes.

Digital technology initiatives have clearly had a significant impact upon the lives of people affected by various physical and mental health conditions and social issues as experienced by Ron and Simon.

The focus of the next section explores the potential of digital technology to improve the life of someone experiencing anxiety in Wales.

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