Donna Thomson - Texthelp

eNHS – the growing digital divide

Interested in an eNHS? Read on for more information about the growing digital divide within our healthcare system. 

In 2013, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt challenged the NHS to ‘go paperless by 2018 to save billions, improve services and help meet the challenges of an ageing population’.

An ambitious target that would bring big changes to the way the NHS operates in the future:

  • an eradication of lost referrals, appointments and missing records
  • the ability for patients and carers to make their own online appointments
  • electronic access to our own health records

Communication barriers

Two years on and digital technology and online services are clearly revolutionising the NHS and the way patients access health information and interact with healthcare providers - 97% of GPs now offer patients online appointment booking.

But the digital health agenda remains an ambition rather than a reality. The challenge now is to make these digital channels as routine as picking up the phone or calling in to a GP surgery.

What provision is being made for the 12 million people in the UK who lack basic online skills and can’t access health services and information online?

The advantages of technology are only true if everyone has the literacy and language skills required to understand and fully interact with online content. However, with one in ten of the UK population affected by literacy challenges and disabilities such as dyslexia, cognitive impairments or low literacy levels, provision needs to be made.

It’s no secret that lower literacy levels are often highest within the lower socioeconomic groups - the part of the population that depends the most on the NHS. So what solutions can be offered to ensure that those who have the greatest need to access online health information and services have the ability to do so?

Assistive technology, offers an effective and low-cost solution to the problem.

Already widely used across the NHS, our digital inclusion software browsealoud is free to use for website visitors, offering read-aloud capability, text magnification and web page simplification for those who have difficulties with reading. Browsealoud also offers read-aloud and written translation, in 35 most commonly used languages, for people whose first language isn’t English.

Sarah Baygot, Senior Communications Manager, at Sheffield CCG said:

“Browsealoud is a fantastic function which has really enhanced our website accessibility. We feel confident that our online visitors now have a better experience, with the speech and reading tools they may need, when accessing our website content.”

Sonia Johal’s, Communications and Engagement Manager for Manchester CCGs, said:

“Browsealoud has enabled Manchester CCG to become more accessible to our online visitors who speak English as a second or third language. Browsealoud was simple to implement and we are confident our visitors have a better online experience as a result.”

Browsealoud is just one of the ways we help to overcome communication barriers within the NHS.

Did you know that 30% of doctors and 40% of nurses in the NHS do not have English as their first language?

Texthelp’s assistive software, read&write, empowers NHS staff to overcome day-to-day literacy and language challenges and communicate with greater confidence.  It integrates seamlessly with documents, web pages and office applications - providing discreet and friendly support at their fingertips.

One Read&Write user said:

“Read&Write has given me far more confidence in my role - I’m able to communicate with my colleagues without fear or concern. Before, I would never reply to emails but pick up the phone instead.  Now, I write more than I’ve ever done before - read&write has changed my life”.

If you have any thoughts on the Paperless NHS debate, we’d love to hear them in the comments below.


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