As the NHS and social care sector in Wales progresses its digital transformation agenda, there is a real danger that those citizens most in need of accessing health services will be left behind, due to their lack of digital skills and access, says new report.
According to the report – Digital Inclusion in Health and Care in Wales – one in four people with limiting long-standing illness, disability or infirmity are not currently using the internet, compared with only 10% of those without such a condition. Most crucially, 25% of men and 32% of women aged 65 to 74 in Wales are not online, compared with only three percent of 16 to 49-year olds.
The report, commissioned by the Wales Co-operative Centre and the Carnegie UK Trust, was launched on 7 November at Digital Health and Care Conference Wales on the same day the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Social Care Services, Vaughan Gething AM, announced a £3m investment to tackle digital exclusion within health and care.
Karen Lewis, Director of Communities and Inclusion at the Wales Co-operative Centre, said:
“The rapid growth in digital technologies brings transformative opportunities for people to become more active partners in their own care, interacting with services with the convenience they have come to expect in other areas of their lives. However, what we still find is that many citizens with the greatest need for health and care provision are also those with the lowest level of digital skills, with lack of access, skills, interest, motivation and trust increasingly the reasons for them not going online.”
Bob Gann, author of the report and former programme director of Widening Digital Participation, the national digital inclusion programme for the NHS in England, said:
“The messages from the report are clear. There are a number of levers and enablers which could be used in Wales to bring digital inclusion higher up the agenda, and embed it in health and care commissioning and provision. For instance, if this digital inclusion support is to be sustainable, we need to be able to measure impact through outcomes which have resonance for the NHS and social care – including self-care, patient activation, and appropriate service utilisation.
“And as we rethink some our approaches to digital inclusion for health and care, we will be most successful if we work with patients and service users to co-produce solutions which matter to them, are accessible and well-designed, and are meaningful to their everyday health experience.”
To view and download the full report – Digital Inclusion in Health and Care in Wales