Digital inclusion is about ensuring the benefits of the internet and digital technologies are available to everyone. For the healthcare industry, digital inclusion covers three key areas.
These include digital skills, connectivity and accessibility. Read on to learn what each of these means and why advancing digital inclusion is important in healthcare.
What Is Digital Inclusion in Healthcare?
Technology is being used throughout healthcare settings more than ever before. This has been accelerated by factors such as the COVID-19 pandemic.
It’s therefore imperative that we work collectively to ensure everyone has access to these different technologies and knows how to use them. This is known as digital inclusion and its definition in healthcare can be broken down into three areas:
Digital skills involve making sure people have the right skills to use digital devices (such as computers or smartphones and the internet). However, this can be a barrier for certain members of society.
For example, older members of society may have had no exposure to using newer types of technology and would have difficulties using them without guidance.
People need the right infrastructure to access these types of technology. Connectivity includes giving people access to broadband and WiFi.
Services also need to be designed to meet all users’ needs, including those dependent on assistive technology to access digital services.
However, research from the UK digital strategy suggests there are several important barriers related to the above, and more than one may affect individuals at any one time. These include:
When it comes to using healthcare technology, not everyone can connect to the internet and go online.
Some members of society fear online crime, lack trust or do not know where to start when using technology to manage their health.
Motivation and Awareness
Some people in society, especially those from older generations, see why the internet and technology are relevant and helpful in the healthcare sector. As for others, they are not even aware that digital services exist and what products are available to them.
Staff Capability and Capacity
Not all health and care staff have the skills and knowledge to recommend digital services and products to patients and service users.
Certain sections of the population are more likely to be digitally excluded than others, including older people, people in lower-income groups, people without jobs and people living in rural areas.
We must find ways to provide these people with the opportunities to benefit from digital services in healthcare. We will explain some of the reasons why in the next section.
Why Does Digital Inclusion Matter In Healthcare?
Digital inclusion matters to healthcare organisations for many reasons. First of all, it plays a crucial role in helping them achieve their digital priorities and goals. The cost of delivering services digitally is also a much more cost-effective approach in the long term.
Promoting equality and addressing health inequalities are also at the heart of the NHS. In today’s society, digital exclusion can be seen as a form of inequality.
Therefore, organisations need to find ways to widen digital participation amongst their patients and this can be done by introducing a range of initiatives, including:
- Offering digital skills training catered to different groups of society.
- Training up digital champions to lead the way in digital inclusion.
- Introducing more assistive technology that provides guidance during people’s digital inclusion journey.
- Offering free public WiFi in different healthcare settings.
Digital inclusion also presents benefits for patients. Not only is it good for people's physical and mental wellbeing, but it also improves long-term condition management.
This is because it supports people in finding reliable health information online and ensures they know how to manage their health using technology.
Digital inclusion takes a person-centred, holistic approach to managing health. This is an effective way to build trust and improve engagement among certain groups in society.
Digital inclusion also provides cost-saving benefits to patients as well as healthcare organisations. This is because they can start to access appointments and stay up to date with their digital health records without travelling to the doctors or their local hospital.
Initiatives such as digital health hubs can also reduce loneliness and isolation among people because they open up conversations to support wider wellbeing and community participation.
So, there you have it — a roundup of the importance of advancing digital inclusion in health. But how do you actually go about getting started and implementing new strategies to meet your digital inclusion goals?
It all starts at HETT Show 2022.
Join Us On the 27th and 28th of September
On the 27th and 28th of September 2022, thousands of delegates will join us at the HETT Show at the ExCeL London.
Here, experts will discuss the importance of digital transformation in healthcare, including how and why your organisation should put a sharp focus on digital inclusion as you look to the future.
Interested? You can register your place below.