Whether it’s telehealth video consultations, electronic health records, or online booking platforms, new digital technologies are driving transformation in the health sector.
But what happens if providers and patients alike have poor digital health literacy skills?
In the digital transformation of the health sector, patients, their families and carers; as well as clinicians and the broader health workforce, must all come along on the same journey – and this means ensuring everyone has good digital health literacy skills.
What is digital health literacy?
Digital health literacy is defined as the ability to seek, find, understand, and appraise health information from electronic sources and apply the knowledge gained to address or solve a health problem. It is influenced by a person’s technical skills and cognitive abilities.
For patients, digital health literacy provides them with greater autonomy over their health journey.
It enables them to navigate the online world of health information, access and manipulate electronic health records, and take advantage of patient information portals, digital health platforms and mobile apps including online bookings, e-prescriptions, and remote health monitoring tools.
For providers, a digitally literate health workforce can use digital tools and platforms with confidence.
It helps clinicians to communicate and engage with patients to deliver coordinated, collaborative care; and to move seamlessly between face-to-face services and virtual care platforms and tools.
Digital literacy skills also help clinicians to build workforce capacity and sustainability and to explore new digital models of care and integrate digital technologies into their practice.
While high rates of digital literacy promote an inclusive digital society, the opposite is also true: when patients have low rates of digital health literacy, they are at greater risk of experiencing inequality in health access and health outcomes.
This so-called, ‘digital divide’ can be impacted by socio-economic factors, as well as demographics, and even geographic factors when people live in areas with poor internet connectivity.
Learn more about the World Health Organization’s Global Strategy on Digital Health 2020-2025:
Read more about digital health literacy as a super determinate of health: