Following through our focus on "Living Well with tech" as a good route to continuing our Ageing Better innovation exploration, I'm looking out for more in support for this idea. Thanks for Helen Cherry - @cherrysouth - for some tips, featured below.
Over the past two years hundreds of UK online centres, supported by the Tinder Foundation, have helped 130,000 people explore and learn about using online health resources - and some lessons are now emerging from the Widening Digital Participation programme funded by NHS England.
Kate Mason reports here on the benefits of finding health information and services online, booking appointments, ordering repeat prescriptions - and also the challenges. These include GPs who don't offer online facilities, and inaccessibility of information online for people who lack language skills. There are concerns about the possible reduction of face-to-face contact with health providers.
Kate says there was an increase in people's confidence in using online health information.
Additionally, 38% said before taking part in the programme that they would go straight to their GP or A&E for non-urgent medical advice. However after taking part in the programme, over a third of these said they would now first seek advice by visiting sites like NHS Choices (22%) or a pharmacy (13%). If each person did this once a year for the next five years and thereby avoided an unnecessary GP or A&E attendance, this would represent an overall saving to the NHS of at least £2.4 million over that period.
... and gives these examples of innovative approaches:
The Bromley by Bow Centre in London, who support ESOL learners in their Digital Inclusion classes through the Using GP Services Online course in Learn My Way, and then take groups to the GP co-located within the Centre and help them register for online transactions.
Staff from West Harton Churches Action Station in South Shields, who once a month set up camp in the waiting room of a local GP surgery and show interested patients how they can book appointments, order repeat prescriptions and give feedback online.
Inspire Communities in Hull, who are working with local homelessness charities to connect vulnerable people with housing and other critical support, and then running digital skills classes in hostels, with a focus on using the internet to access health information and find the health services they need.
Khadejah Al Harbi and Lauren Kahn of the Government Digital Services have also been to Bromley by Bow and write about the visit on their digital inclusion blog.
A key piece of learning that we took away from our visits is that, for some people, more pressing needs may need to be addressed alongside, or before digital inclusion can be introduced. For example, some people may not be physically or mentally fit and first need support from a health coordinator. Many are unable to speak even basic English (their key client group is predominantly the Bangladeshi community, in addition to Somali and European communities) and may lack the basic literacy skills required to start to develop their digital literacy.
The Centre tackles this head on, innovatively through embedding digital inclusion support within a whole range of support and services under one umbrella.
They confirm that one size doesn't fit all - that everyone has their own package of interests and needs. Khadejah and Lauren add:
Our conversations with staff and clients revealed that different cohorts will have different hooks for getting online. A deep understanding of the needs of the individuals and groups who visit the Centre helps ensure an approach that is responsive to people’s personal needs and motivations. For example, among mothers, children’s internet safety is often a key priority, while for younger women, online shopping is a motivator. Older men may want to keep up with the times via the online Bangladeshi news sites, while young people in their 20s and 30s are interested in accessing music online or email.
Helen Cherry pointed me to a useful post from DMC Healthcare about tech advances to support a greater role for community clinics, ranging from Skype-based consultations to the widespread use of mobile devices and apps, telesurgery and systems like Nursebuddy to share information about wellbeing, treatment and visits among all concerned with a patient.
I particularly like Helen's idea of something like an Applestore genius bar to help people use healthcare apps - which she explained when we met recently at a Digital Health and Care Alliance event. This US medical center has one.