Posted: Sat 15th Apr 2023

Digital health revolution: Almost half of people in Wales using technology to manage health

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Saturday, Apr 15th, 2023


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New research has shown that almost half of people in Wales used the internet and digital technology to manage their health in 2020-2021, almost double the figure from the previous year.

Public Health Wales surveyed the Welsh population about their internet usage for health-related activities, including tracking healthy behaviors, finding health information, and receiving clinical care.

Of those with internet access, younger people and those with long-term medical conditions were most likely to use digital technology for health management.

Additionally, over half of those surveyed said they wanted to use the internet more to manage their health in the future, particularly those aged between 30 and 54.

There was no evidence that the increase in internet use for health management was a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic, as less than one percent of people reported newly gaining access to the internet over the survey period.

However, there is still a digital divide in Wales, with a higher proportion of people living in deprived areas less likely to be online.

Furthermore, those with access to the internet were more likely to use it for Covid-19 related activities than receiving clinical care.

The nationally representative survey asked people in Wales in the winter of 2021-22 about their access to the internet and use of technology to do the following activities:

  • Tracking healthy behaviours – such as step counters, diet trackers or recording health symptoms
  • Finding health information – for example about symptoms, health conditions and health services
  • Requesting a health appointment or prescription
  • Receiving clinical care such as GP appointments
  • Covid-19 activities – like symptom tracking, booking a vaccination, or complying with Test, Trace, Protect requirements.

Dr Diana Bright, Senior Public Health Researcher for Public Health Wales, said: “The Covid-19 pandemic clearly had an immediate impact on many aspects of our lives, with numerous activities transferring online very quickly.”

“This study shows that this did not push people online, but amongst those already online there was marked growth in the use of the internet and tech to support health.”

“This may have reflect the context of the pandemic, but interesting there was strong interest in the use of digital tech for health into the future.”

“We need to consider public preferences when developing digital health – as some services may be better received than others (eg ordering prescriptions and booking appointments, rather than clinical care).”

Prof Alisha Davies,  said:  “This report builds on a series of population surveys on digital exclusion and health in Wales and the findings will continue to support the development of digital transformation for health, whilst also ensuring that those who are not online, or do not choose to engage with health through technology have access to the same care.”

The Digital Inclusion Alliance Wales welcomed the report, but stressed that the digitisation of health and care services risked leaving the most vulnerable behind due to digital exclusion.

The Alliance urged that people be equipped with the skills and access they need to manage their health online.

The research findings will continue to support the development of digital transformation in healthcare, and ensure that those without internet access, or who choose not to engage with health technology, still have access to the same care.

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