There is huge potential for digital inclusion to improve the health and well-being of older people and people with a limiting long-standing illness in Wales. The rapid growth in digital technologies brings amazing opportunities for people to become more active partners in their own care. But there is also a serious risk that people who are digitally excluded get left behind.
Digital inclusion in health and care
Why does digital inclusion matter for the health and social care sector?
The NHS in Wales has a vision for digital health and care in Wales – online access to records, appointment bookings and prescription requests, healthcare apps, wearables, online self-management and video consultations. National programmes for public facing services are being rolled out alongside initiatives being implemented by individual health boards.
But, people who are most in need of health and care (including older people and those with long term conditions and disabilities) are the least likely to be online.
- Only 87% of people in Wales with a long-standing illness, disability or infirmity use the internet, compared to 93% of those without such a condition.
- Just 87% of those aged 65-74 use the internet, compared to 99% of 16-44 year olds.
- Fewer people in Wales use the internet to manage their health than in the rest of the UK.
Annual savings of £2.9billion
The Department of Health in England has calculated annual savings of £2.9billion from digital deployment in the NHS. But these savings will not be fully realised while the heaviest users of health and care services are less likely to be online.
The business case for digital inclusion in health and care so far is encouraging. Evaluations have shown that interventions, including digital skills training:
- Improve people’s confidence in using digital health tools
- Boost take-up of services such as online appointment bookings
- Increase self-care for minor ailments
- Save time and money
Our work with health and care providers
Digital Communities Wales is working with all 7 health boards in Wales. Our support ranges from practical training for clinical staff and other health professionals to develop their digital skills, to strategic support to help senior health executives integrate digital inclusion into their citizen-facing services.
As well as our work with health boards, we are working with individual GP surgeries, care homes, non-statutory care providers and the voluntary sector.