Digitalisation of Health Care Services
Full title: Digitalisation of health and social care services for older adults: what can we learn from the COVID-19 pandemic?
For at least a decade, the World Health Organization (WHO) has been encouraging use of digital technology to improve health and social care services.
There is a growing role for digital technologies in society, but concerns that older adults are being disadvantaged and excluded with the growth of use of these technologies.
The COVID-19 pandemic led the UK government to mandate lockdowns and social restrictions. This was accompanied by rapid implementation of many digital services both in the UK and internationally.
- To advance our understanding of how health and care services have been digitalised during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- To learn what has worked well and what has not, with a specific lens on the digital divide and health inequalities.
- To provide evidence for future policymaking.
Initial work (complete)
We have produced an initial mapping review to identify what types of evidence are currently available on the digitalisation of health and care services for older adults since the pandemic. This is a first step towards a longer-term ambition to advance our understanding of how health and care services have been digitalised, and the policy implications of this change. Find out more about this phase of the work in our report.
We are currently undertaking further work on the digitalisation of GP services and exploring views and experiences of older adults from South Asian and Black African or Caribbean descent.
Analysis of GP consultation data
We are analysing the digitalisation of GP services and whether there is a relationship with health inequalities. We are interested in the following questions, specifically related to older people (aged 65+):
- How has the mode of GP consultation varied for older people (65+ years and compared to younger groups) over the pre-pandemic period (pre- Jan 2020) pandemic period (Jan 2020 – Feb 2022) and since the main pandemic?
- Are there differences in number of consultations for different age, socio-economic and ethnic groups related to digitalisation?
- Is there a relationship between digitalisation of GP consultations and health inequalities among older adults?
Understanding experiences and views of older people from minority ethnic groups
We are conducting a series of focus groups to explore the experiences and views of older adults from two ethnic minority groups (South Asian and Black African or Caribbean backgrounds) about digitalisation of primary care services. We are interested in the following key questions:
- What is it like accessing/using digitalised primary care services as an older adult from a South Asian or a Black African or Caribbean background?
- How do older adults from these groups describe their views regarding digitalised primary care services?
- What are the expectations of older adults from these groups regarding future digital primary care services?
The review has considered how digitalisation of services has progressed and the evidence base upon which such digitalisation has been based.
This review has informed the development of policy and practice for the digitalisation of health and care services.
Current work intends to reveal identification of good practice (what works), the views of older people, how digitalisation relates to health inequalities (does it exacerbate them or can it mitigate them?), and vital information for policymakers regarding digitalisation of services.
Review stage: completed Spring 2023
Current work: August 2023 (qualitative work) and November 2023 (quantitative work)
Associated Publications and Resources
- Final Report (Phase One) “Digitalisation of health and care services for older adults; what can we learn from the COVID-19 pandemic” Executive Summary