A new study to better understand what prevents people from using information technology to help them manage their health and care has found that few people have heard of three major websites.
The study commissioned by NHS Connecting for Health looked at how social groups who may be excluded from electronic health information services used websites including NHS Choices, HealthSpace and Easyhealth (which provides health advice for those with learning disabilities).
The report titled ‘Including Everyone in Electronic Health Information Services,’ states: “One of the most important findings of this study was that people had not heard of NHS Choices, HealthSpace and Easyhealth.
"This was even the case for people who had searched online for health information previously.”
The quantitative study by Raft, which interviewed 50 older people, people on low incomes and those with a learning disability from Bolton, Salford, Bury and Manchester, found participants were positive about the services when they were demonstrated to them.
However, some felt NHS Choices in particular was aimed at people that were newly diagnosed and could not help those who had had a condition for many years.
Others said that fear of health information, puts them off searching for health information “as a computer can’t reassure you if you’re frightened.”
In relation to HealthSpace, again, few participants had heard of the service including those in Bolton and Bury which are early adopters for the summary care record.
The reaction was mixed and found that it was “clear that most people would only wish to used certain functions of the website” such as the calendar function to help them remember hospitals appointments and the communicator.
Several added that they saw no advantage of seeing a record of medications or allergies when they already knew that they had them.
The report concludes that there is a high degree of trust in the information from the NHS websites which could usefully be used to promote the websites for effectively.
“Most people felt that leaflets and posters in GP surgeries and hospitals clinics would be suitable. Several people suggested the idea of TV advertising.”
The study also aimed to address those who had never accessed the internet, which amounts to 9.2 million people across England. It found that those who would consider learning wanted to do it as possible to home as possible in such as at home, community group they attended, GP surgery or hospital clinic.
Another finding was that although many people did not have access to computers or did not know how to use them, family members were able access the websites and provide the information.
The report recommends that “By promoting NHS websites to all computer uses, we can indirectly improve access to electronic health information for those people who do not use a computer.”
Marlene Winfield OBE, director for patient and public at CfH said: “This report is already helping CfH in the design and delivery of its products and services.
“It will we hope, contribute to the wider digital inclusion discussions taking place as a result of the current health whitepaper and the information strategy consultation that followed it.”
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