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Digital Health: Onboard or lost at sea?

Polly Beaumont

March 26, 2021

The explosion of digital health services as part of the national response to COVID-19 has been impressive, however greater access to digital health services doesn’t automatically equate to greater inclusivity. In fact, quite the opposite. As Helen Milner from the Good Things Foundation explained in a recent report, digital has become a social determinant of health, as while it has been a lifeline during lockdown for those with the access, skills and confidence to benefit, “too many are still locked out”.

Members of the CHC team will be attending the Digital Health World Congress 2021 next week to learn more about evolving digital health strategies, pandemic-driven transformations and what more we can do to improve digital inclusivity.

Now, perhaps more than ever, the issue of social inequality is at the forefront of our minds. As we continue to navigate through a global pandemic, we must design solutions with inclusivity in mind. The never-ending hunger for more sophisticated, more innovative technologies must be balanced with the basics of digital inclusivity – from a stable internet connection and smart phone, to spoken and sign language interpreters via video technology.

If we can keep these considerations in mind, digital health has the power to place everyone in the same boat; remote services that can be accessed by all regardless of situation, time constraints, location or cost of travel, and remote clinical trials that enable people from different backgrounds and living situations to take part.

We’re particularly interested to hear The Good Things Foundation’s take on this issue during next week’s congress. The social inclusion charity will be discussing their campaign #FixtheDigitalDivide in the context of digital health literacy and equality within the NHS. Through careful acknowledgement of how digital health advancements may impact equality, the industry can strive to avoid potential pitfalls and design solutions with intended consequences.

While digital will and should continue to transform the way we access healthcare, inclusivity will remain a thorn in its side, as those with the access, skills and confidence to benefit will receive better healthcare, while others may become further marginalised.

If the wide-reaching effects of COVID-19 have taught us one thing, it’s that we are not all in the same boat. The same ocean, yes. But the same boat, not quite yet.

To discuss the issue of inclusivity within different social demographics in digital health, please  contact us at hello@clarkhealthcomms.com.