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

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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, go to the Good Things foundation website and use the search function to find and read the following two articles, each of which describes a case study of a Good Things Foundation project designed to help people who lack skills in digital literacy:

  1. A Place of Welcome
  2. Disadvantaged in Leeds developing Skills for Tomorrow

As you read the case studies, make notes on the following:

  1. identify who each project reaches out to help
  2. what are some of the issues that each project helps address?


A Place of Welcome

This project is in an area of high social deprivation. The project reaches out to the following:

  • people who live in social housing
  • people with fewer educational qualifications
  • people in lower income groups
  • people of different ages including older people.

The location of the project is familiar, welcoming and comfortable for many people. It provides opportunities for people to learn new skills from each other in an informal environment. There is access to digital technology and support. This has helped some people maintain social contact with family members. The example is given of a woman being supported to search and find housing association accommodation.

Disadvantaged in Leeds developing Skills for Tomorrow

This project appears to have a broad reach across a multicultural community. It specifically offers help to:

  • people with fewer educational qualifications, perhaps because they left education prematurely or because they had negative learning experiences.
  • people currently without work or who are seeking employment
  • people on low incomes
  • disabled people.

The project helps people develop learning, literacy, numeracy and IT skills. It also helps develop confidence and more general life skills. Achievement with basic skills can be a stepping-stone towards developing more complex skills. The project recognises that some people need help overcoming a fear of technology and that people can develop IT skills to find employment.

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 in the case studies.

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