Charity Tests Approaches To Building Digital Health Literacy

The pandemic rapidly accelerated the trend for more clinicians to accept telemedicine. Yet research by our parent organisation PatientView confirmed during the autumn that many patient groups worldwide are extremely concerned about people who lack the technology or digital confidence to access healthcare remotely. 

Looking to the future, how can we build people’s confidence and capability to use ehealth and mhealth more widely?

Sharing what works best

The Good Things Foundation is a UK-based charity working globally to improve people’s lives through digital. In November the Foundation launched a major report evaluating innovative pilot schemes to help address the “digital divide” and build people’s confidence and capability in managing their health and accessing care digitally.

The report: “Digital Inclusion in Health and Care: Lessons learned”, focuses on a digital participation programme run by the UK National Health Service (NHS).

Their core recommendations:
1: Recognise digital access and skills as a social determinant of health

“…COVID-19 has further exposed the digital divide – the correlations between digital exclusion, social and economic disadvantage.” 

Example recommendation:

  • Improve national data on the links between digital inclusion, health care and outcomes.
2: Co-design digital health services

“Digital services can amplify existing barriers to accessing health care, unless action is taken to reduce these.” 

Example recommendation:

  • “…always include co-design with those who have low digital skills and face barriers to health care.”
3: Improve digital health literacy in the population

“As digitally-enabled health care and information becomes mainstream, this makes population digital health literacy a priority.” 

Example recommendation:

  • Improve people’s understanding of how their health and personal data is used.
4. Develop ‘digital health hubs’ to improve inclusion 

“Community ‘digital health hubs’ emerged as a practical way to build digital health literacy and improve access to health and wellbeing.” 

Example recommendations:

  • Establish a national community of practice for digital health hubs.
  • Use local hubs, such as libraries and GP surgeries to “Support people to find and download trusted health apps”.
5: Build trust and relationships with poorly-served groups 

“Being supported by ‘people like me’ and ‘in my language’, and ‘exploring together’ also helped to build digital health literacy and confidence.” 

Example recommendation:

  • Train and support peers to be digital champions for health and care.
6: Harness the benefits of digital for health and wellbeing 

“With older people, carers, people dealing with homelessness, substance abuse and people seeking asylum, digital inclusion opened up new and different conversations about health and wider wellbeing.” 

Example recommendation:

  • Include information about how to improve accessibility when training digital champions.
7: Improve digital skills in the health and care workforce 

“Providing support to staff delivered positive results, with added value where strategies to build digital skills and confidence included both staff and services users together.” 

Example recommendation: 

  • Build digital confidence and motivation of staff.
8: Embed digital inclusion in health, care and wellbeing strategies 

“Successful partnerships improved the local health, wellbeing and digital inclusion infrastructure. They strengthened bridges across sectors, working together to improve access to devices and digital inclusion support, creating networks of peer and volunteer digital champions, improving referral routes and cross-agency working, and building on existing community sector assets.”

Example recommendation:

  • Build on community assets and collaboration across health, care and community sectors.
Focus on the patients

One key finding of the report is that:

“When it comes to digital health services, most of the interest and investment has been directed into technology and data, and the digital transformation of institutions. Gradually, attention has turned to digitally upskilling the health and care workforce. Far less attention has been afforded to the digital access and capabilities of citizens, patients and carers.” – The Good Things Foundation


Download the report at…

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Find out more about the Foundation at…

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Read our related blog on a digital health literacy charter at…

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