28th July, 2017

The potential for digital health technologies; such as online booking and information services; telehealth/telecare services; health and well being apps and wearables; to contribute positively to improved health and social care service delivery is growing.

In response to this, the North West London (NWL) Collaboration of Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) and the Healthy London Partnership (HLP) recently commissioned the Organisation for the Review of Care and Health Applications (ORCHA) to survey North West London’s citizens’ needs, motivations, and behaviours regarding digital health tools and services. The survey investigated awareness, utilisation, obstacles, and understanding of digital health services.

The subsequent report, which was released this month, is intended to serve inform an evidence base supporting plans for improved delivery and uptake, of existing and new digital health services.

In response to the findings, Rachel Neaman, CEO of the Corsham Institute and member of DigitalHealth.London’s Advisory Board, said, “The ORCHA Digital Attitudes Survey provides valuable insights into the opportunities and challenges of delivering digital health. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the paper cites the main barriers to uptake by citizens as accessibility, trust and security. Digital technology is still not accessible to all; 9% of UK adults have never been online and 21% lack the five basic digital skills essential for digital literacy. With recent high-profile data security breaches, trust in organisations to keep personal data safe has been severely dented. It is therefore imperative that these barriers are tackled and that digital health providers work to overcome negative perceptions by listening and responding to these opinions. It is only by increasing citizen trust in the safety of their personal data that the health system can deliver improved care provision, not just for those individuals, but for society as a whole.”

Key findings:

  • Where people are already using digital health services, they value them.
  • Where people are not currently engaged with digital health services, there is a clear appetite to engage with these services in the future.
  • There are clear preferences outlined within the survey responses about which digital services people value most. This enables improvement teams to prioritise areas for development.
  • People understand that there are potentially many benefits to them if they can access digital health services, which suggests that they would engage if their primary concerns are addressed.

The survey highlights the following obstacles to digital health engagement:

  • People are not motivated to use Digital Health services until they are ill themselves
  • People are not sufficiently aware of the potential of digital health services to promote wellbeing, illness prevention and improved self-management of longterm conditions.
  • People are not sufficiently aware of the digital services that already exist.
  • People are concerned about their privacy and confidentiality being undermined online.
  • Culturally, many people are uncomfortable about losing the face to face relationships with their clinicians.
  • Clinical recommendation and NHS assurance of digital services are important factors in digital service take up.
  • Many hard to reach patient groups will need support to be available to realise the full range of benefits of digital health services.

Download the full report here.