‘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.