|A healthier outcome which could be self-financing
A report published last week shows an NHS programme to train vulnerable people to use the internet has led to over half feeling more confident to manage their health, 21% making fewer calls or visits to their GP and 6% making fewer trips to A&E. This behaviour change is estimated to have saved the NHS £6m in avoided GP and A&E visits in just 12 months.
As a result of the Widening Digital Participation programme, run by NHS England and Tinder Foundation, 59% of learners report feeling more confident to use online tools to manage their health, 65% feel more informed and 52% say they feel less lonely with 62% saying they feel happier as a result of social contact, an important indicator for overall well-being.
Searching online for symptoms & medications advice and using digital health tools such as apps help patients to take a more active role in monitoring & self-managing their condition. However, there are currently 12.6m people living in the UK who lack the digital skills to use the internet in this way. These people tend to be older and more likely to be in poverty with high health & social care needs.
The programme has reached over 220,000 to date, targeting some of the hardest to reach communities, with 82% of those trained experiencing at least one form of social exclusion including unemployment, disability and homelessness. This follows the recommendation made by Martha Lane Fox in December 2015, to increase take-up of internet enabled services in health and care by designing digital tools and training programmes to ‘reach the ‘furthest first’.