Digital is just a fad.

Digital is just a fad.


‘Digital is just a fad’

‘Digital is just a distraction from the real problems facing healthcare’

‘Digital is just another thing to learn and I  don’t have time’

These are all challenges I’ve recently heard from healthcare professionals recently who are reticent and doubtful about the value of spending time developing their understanding of social media and digital tools/services. Everyone is busy and everyone is overstretched. So why should their attention be focused here when they are so many other more pressing priorities?

Their wariness is in sharp contrast to a talk on widening digital participation by Bob Gann at a recent mHealthHabitat breakfast discussion in which he shared the following three stark facts:

  • Low health literacy is closely linked to poor outcomes and mortality
  • Information and services are increasingly digital – digital skills are increasingly linked to health literacy
  • Those who are least likely to be online are those who most need health and care services.

If digital skills are important for people needing health and care services then they are also important for practitioners who are delivering those services. Increasingly, practitioners need to incorporate digital mediation in to their day to day work – helping people find and make sense of the best health information and digital tools online.

Digital skills aren’t just technical skills – they are skills in appraising information online, they are skills in participating in online communities to maximise their beneficial effects and minimise harm; they are skills in understanding whether a mobile app is based on evidenced clinical effectiveness and deciding if you’re ok with how it uses your data; they are skills in the art of blogging and microblogging for help and support or even distraction; they are skills in using digital tools and services to enhance social capital and reduce isolation.

Social media and digital tools have huge potential that we are only just beginning to realise but we will increase inequality and related mortality if we don’t widen digital participation – and that’s for health and care professionals as well as people accessing services.

Next time I’m given the challenge that social media and digital tools/services are a distraction, I’m going to share Bob’s three points.

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  1. Important points about digital inclusion, and we need to improve access for everyone. But there’s another point, and this was made to me by an elderly gent at a PPG group: better digital access will improve offline access for those who can’t use it, by freeing up receptionist and GP time.
    This matters too, and is another reason to press ahead for the large numbers who can and want to use digital services.

    • That’s a really interesting point – thank you for taking the time to comment 🙂

  2. Wouldn’t it be great if more local clubs , organisations & patient groups had their own digital footprint. ( social media accounts , website ) #PendleConnect

    As a GP in Pendle, I am interested in promoting the use of social media by local organisations. I believe this will be beneficial to those who live and work in Pendle by making it easier for individuals, friends ,and family members to find out about what is available locally.

    • You are such a role model for all GPs out there Stuart! Love what you are doing to support greater digital participation 🙂

  3. Yes good points from Bob Gann – however there is a technology often heavily relied on by the oldest members in society that could be used as a step towards digital or directly as a communications channel – that is of course the TV.
    Film material can now be made and edited more cheaply than ever.
    Leeds now has its own local TV channel: ‘Made in Leeds’ – they’re looking for material. We’d need a campaign to get people to tune in at a particular day / time for Health / Social Care local information.
    TV is well used by the most needy (and often the most isolated) in society. Why don’t we give it a go !! ? Mike

    • Really good point Mike 🙂

  4. There is a tremendous amount of work going on to shrink the ‘digital divide’ both for professionals and citizens. From the operational perspective the UK Council for Health Informatics Professions is involved with many groups (inter)nationally developing competences that should be in place for both health and social care informaticians and health&care practitioners (anyone handling sensitive health&care data)in designing, developing, delivering and helping others to get the best out of our systems. Too much to get into a post but have a look at the site and send me any comments.

    • Thanks for pointing me to the UK Council Jean – much appreciated. With the National Information Board focusing on this area too it’s great to see digital literacy of health and social care staff being developed and supported. I think we’ll get the best from a local and nationally connected approach to this so that digital is supported at all levels.


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