Digital champions to tackle patient distrust in online health confidentiality

New research suggests that the biggest barriers for patients to use the internet is distrust of online health information and lack of technological skills.

Individuals can now confidently and safely manage their health online with the support from specially trained health and social care staff and volunteers. According to research conducted by NHS Digital and Digital Unite and supported by Waltham Forest CCG, Blackpool Teaching Hospitals, North East London NHS Foundation Trust, Brent CCG and Harrow CCG, the help received will give patients the confidence to use digital health tools.

It was found that 58% of the current digital champions had already been asked for assistance by learners using search engines to find specific health information about their conditions.

22 % (11.9 million people) in the UK don’t have the basic digital skills necessary for everyday life, and it is predicted that by 2020 4.5 million UK adults will still be digitally disengaged unless digital skills are provided.

Digital champions who may be volunteers, NHS staff, family, friends or neighbours can provide ongoing and flexible digital skills support which is tailor-made for the learners.

There are a range of learning resources that are available for people who want to become digital health champions which include shared spaces for collaboration, guidance and best practice and digital health champion network examples.

Nicola Gill, Programme Lead at NHS Digital, said: “We are committed to ensuring everyone has the confidence, skills and means to access and use digital health services and tools, particularly the most excluded. When it comes to health it’s incredibly important that people are helped in a personal and empathetic way and we know that digital health champions make that difference.”

Emma Weston, Chief Executive of Digital Unite, said: “We know that it is people who make digital work for people, especially beginners and the less confident. That’s why digital champions can be such a game changer in supporting and sustaining digital skills. Alongside NHS Digital we have discovered new opportunities for digital champions in health and a genuine passion and enthusiasm for doing something different and creative. We’ve been delighted to collaborate with health organisations on our new CPD-accredited Digital Health Champions Network that will enable staff and volunteers to confidently help patients manage their health online.”

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