A new report published by Public Health Wales and the King’s Fund has revealed the results of their study into the development of inequalities in healthcare that may arise due to digital exclusion.
With digital channels now being employed as one of the means of providing access to healthcare, concern has arisen in regard to how these changes could affect those who may not be able to use them. Specifically, Public Health Wales identified a lack of access, skills and motivation as the three key factors that could impact an individual’s ability to use these technologies.
The study found that older people, rural communities and those in Wales with a low income were most affected by digital exclusion, and that there is good evidence to believe that groups already subject to disadvantage and worse health outcomes may be affected by it too. They do note, however, that in the case of the latter the relationship here is complex.
Dr Alisha Davies, Head of Research and Evaluation at Public Health Wales, said: “When people are digitally excluded – be that because of a lack of access, skills or motivation – then it also affects their opportunity to access the services that will improve their long-term health.”
“Our report helps to explain how digital exclusion may impact on an individual’s health and the actions needed to prevent some groups from being left behind.”
With 1 in 10 adults without access to the internet, the report recommends that there is a need for greater user participation in the design of digital health services, and for an expansion of research to help build a better understanding of the issue. Further recommended action includes seeking out new opportunities to improve health for the affected groups and taking into account the barriers remaining that impact their use of digital technologies.
The report found no evidence that conclusively establishes whether or not digital exclusion is leading to increasing health inequalities. However, it emphasised the need for healthcare providers to take into account barriers to using technology that may affect certain groups when developing new ways to access services.
To mitigate this risk, there is a need for greater participatory practices when designing digital services, and an expansion of research on digital health inequalities.
View the report here >
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