There is now evidence to say that e Health plays an important role in facilitating socio-economic inclusion, improve quality of life, provide patient empowerment through greater transparency, access to services, information and use of social media for health. Though a certain section of society has been quick to adopt and benefit from the use of this technology, there has been another group, which has been slow to adopt, who have concerns over access and affordability of technology, its usability and appropriateness, as well as over digital health literacy. Unfortunately, this is the most vulnerable section of society and as is well known is more prone to diseases. Thus, insufficient knowledge, skills and literacy, lack of user-friendliness and doubts over the meaningfulness of information can also create new health inequalities, which are far more complex and may reflect the flaws of the traditional health system and potentially even aggravated online. This could further deepen the divide between the well-to-do, educated and technologically savvy and the other group, who may not be able to access the best of services. Though, with the ubiquitous penetration of mobile phones and the internet, this gap is getting narrowed, the knowledge gap between proficient and inept users is widening which is resulting in another kind of social inequality. This reflects on the quality of engagement that people are having with the internet, which is varied.
With the advent of state of the art technology and rising costs of care, there is a greater expectation from patients about results of management and increasingly personalised healthcare where the patients would have greater autonomy of their care. But the barrier to this form of care is based upon the level of digital education of the patient. This may or may not be proportional to the conventional education level or perceived intelligence.
One of the first steps that needs to be taken in this direction is to ascertain the social needs of digital technology in the management process and integrate this into mainstream care delivery. Secondly, it is important to ascertain the digital education level of the client and tailor solutions accordingly. This needs careful design thinking and business model pragmatism to increase digital health accessibility. Often, the problems are very simple to solve and a bit of patience is all that is needed. It is also very important that the traditional methods of patient care are kept robust, before switching to an all-digital set-up. Medicine being a science of uncertainties cannot depend on a single tailored pre-fitted mindset alone. Over reliance on technology may lead to attrition and ultimate rejection of the system.
And finally, along with innovative business models and more efficient and state of the art management, there is a need for not just disease related education, but also succinct and interesting ways of digital education to enable clients who are needy to use digital health.