A lack of skills and a distrust of health information online are two of the biggest barriers for patients to use the internet, according to new research.
The research found that specially trained health and social care staff and volunteers can support individuals to safely and confidently manage their health online. This increases their confidence to use digital health tools, according to the research, which was carried out by NHS Digital and Digital Unite1, with support from and Brent CCG, Harrow CCG, Blackpool Teaching Hospitals, Waltham Forest CCG and North East London NHS Foundation Trust.
The research also found that 58% of existing digital champions had been asked by learners for assistance in using search engines to find health information about their specific conditions.
11.9 million people (22%) do not have the essential digital skills needed for day-to-day life in the UK. By 2030 it is forecast that 4.5 million UK adults will remain digitally disengaged unless there is a step change in the provision of digital skills and confidence2.
Digital champions provide flexible, ongoing digital skills support that is tailored for the needs of their learner. They may be NHS staff, volunteers, friends, family or neighbours, all interacting with the people who need better digital skills.
A range of learning resources are available for those wishing to become digital health champions. They include guidance and best practice, shared spaces for collaboration and examples of digital health champion networks.
Nicola Gill, Programme Lead at NHS Digital, said: “We are committed to ensuring everyone has the confidence, skills and means to access and use digital health services and tools, particularly the most excluded. When it comes to health it’s incredibly important that people are helped in a personal and empathetic way and we know that digital health champions make that difference.”
Emma Weston, Chief Executive of Digital Unite, said: “We know that it is people who make digital work for people, especially beginners and the less confident. That’s why digital champions can be such a game changer in supporting and sustaining digital skills. Alongside NHS Digital we have discovered new opportunities for digital champions in health and a genuine passion and enthusiasm for doing something different and creative. We’ve been delighted to collaborate with health organisations on our new CPD-accredited Digital Health Champions Network that will enable staff and volunteers to confidently help patients manage their health online.”
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