GUEST POST: Making digital health information available to all

Our latest guest post is written by Helen Milner, Chief Executive, Tinder Foundation. She discusses the foundation’s involvement in the NHS’s digital health literacy programme. 

NHS England launched revolutionary new guidance this week – Transforming Participation in Health and Social Care. It aims to put people in control of their own health and social care. Launched by NHS National Director for Patients and Information, Tim Kelsey, a key feature of the guidance is a new digital health literacy programme.

The premise of the programme is very simple – the overlap in demographics between people who are digitally excluded and those who suffer from health inequalities is huge. For example, half of all people who are offline have a disability, and among the over 65s (who account for half of NHS spending) 36 per cent have never been online before. It is estimated that the additional NHS healthcare costs associated with inequalities are in excess of £5.5 billion a year. The digital health literacy programme will ensure everyone has access to digital platforms and the skills they need to take part in their own health and care. It also has the potential to reduce costs for the NHS.

Tinder Foundation, a staff-owned mutual and social enterprise which helps to make a future possible for many people by training them in digital technology, will lead the digital health literacy programme. Over the course of the programme and by March 2014, we will be engaging with 100,000 people and will have actively trained 50,000.

It’s important that the training enables people to interact independently with health information and use meaningful transactions to take control of their health. Therefore the programme will cover areas such as ordering repeat prescriptions online, finding hospital reviews online before attending a clinic, making hospital and GP appointments online – such as a routine mammogram – accessing health information in more easily understood formats, like videos, and taking preventative action by researching information.

People often don’t want to go to a formal training centre to learn new things, which is why our training will use innovative new ways of reaching people. This might happen online, in our centres (which are located at various, handy locations in the community), as well at various outreach locations, which may include doctors surgeries, outpatient clinics, leisure centres and more.

And perhaps most importantly, it‘s essential that we support some of the very hardest to reach groups (including homeless people, migrant workers, and sex workers) and that’s what we’ll be trying to do. These people face the biggest barriers to digital inclusion and good health.

Digital health information should be available to all. Either now or in the future, if someone suffers poor health, they should be able to access reliable, up-to-date information easily, wherever they are. It’s absolutely essential that we help people who are currently digitally excluded to understand that health information is available for them, and to give them the skills to access it, which is why I think this programme is such an important one and why I’m looking forward to seeing the huge impact I think it can have.


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