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What do we mean by digital health and social care?
What do we mean by digital health and social care?

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3.2 What are the disadvantages for implementation?

In the previous activity, you will have noted some of the advantages of digital health and social care technology. However, there are also disadvantages and challenges to be aware of.

An independent review report (Health Education England, 2019), ‘Preparing the healthcare workforce to deliver a digital future’, outlined some of the legal and ethical implications of digital health technology including patient safety, data governance, respect for human dignity and health inequalities. It is important that ethical principles are kept in mind when introducing the use of digital technology. For example, one of the primary ethical principles is ‘do no harm’, so patient safety needs to be considered before implementing any digital technology. This report also highlights some unintended consequences of digital health and social care, such as the risk of creating new inequalities with some parts of the population unable to access or use such technology.

Imison et al. (2016) further discuss and expand on the reasons why digital technology has been difficult to implement; 88% of UK adults report using the internet but only 2% report electronic engagement with health and care. Some of the barriers to this have been identified through research and experience, such as poorly designed information technology systems, resistance to change, the lack of high quality research evidence to support the implementation of certain technologies and the length of time it takes to start to see benefits of change.

One of the barriers to using digital technology in health care settings is that not everyone chooses to be online because they don’t feel comfortable using the technology or that they are concerned about the privacy and security of their personal information (Topol, 2019). In addition to physical access and privacy concerns, the use of digital technology may also have an impact on vision and posture; e.g. smartphone screens can create ‘glare’ that can impact on sleep.

From a legal and ethical perspective, Topol (2019) also identifies the risks associated with sharing data electronically, the use of biological databases and the systems and processes by which people provide consent for the collection and storage of this data and how this is managed, monitored, accessed and shared.

Activity 5 Disadvantages of being digital

Read the following:

Read through without making any notes. Think about the challenges and disadvantages associated with the use and implementation of health and social care technology. Finally, re-read the relevant section of the article, and highlight or make notes on what these might be for service users, patients, organisations or those who work in health and social care.

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The article shows that there are some significant challenges and disadvantages, particularly for those from vulnerable groups.

The article outlined some of the ethical issues that should be considered when implementing or making the decision to implement technology. The section on ‘ethical issues’ explored 6 areas of concern. Some examples are provided below.

  • Issue 1 discussed the issues for medical professionals recommending digital technology to patients if they are not confident in their use. It is important to consider the technology being recommended and individual service user need. It is also noted that professionals should not assume that younger people are more able to use technology.
  • Issue 2 discussed whether professionals should ignore when patients use technology, such as using internet searches to find information about their symptoms or potential ‘self’ diagnoses.