Read about our pioneering study with South Tees NHS Foundation Trust here.

How Surgery Hero is Tackling Digital Exclusion in Healthcare

Adam Robinson
October 5, 2023

The COVID-19 pandemic has fast-tracked the uptake of digital health products, revolutionising how we access information and utilise services. However, it's crucial to acknowledge that not everyone enjoys equal access to these digital tools, leading to an emerging problem known as digital exclusion. In this article, we'll explore the concept of digital exclusion in healthcare, emphasise its impact, and discuss Surgery Hero's ambitions to tackle this issue.

Getting to Grips with Digital Exclusion

Digital exclusion refers to the absence of access to or expertise in utilising digital technologies. Below are some key aspects of digital exclusion in healthcare:

  • Limited internet access
  • Low digital literacy
  • Inaccessible technology
  • Financial barriers
  • Language barriers
  • Lack of motivation and trust

In healthcare, digital exclusion can exacerbate existing health inequalities, hindering people's ability to access crucial services. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) reveals that around 7.4 million adults in the UK had low digital skills in 2020 (and roughly 31.8 million adults in the US), posing challenges when accessing health information, scheduling appointments, or participating in telemedicine consultations.

Why Addressing Digital Exclusion Matters

Digital exclusion carries significant consequences for individuals' health outcomes and healthcare systems as a whole. Limited digital access or skills can lead to deferred access to healthcare services and delayed diagnoses, contributing to widening health inequalities. Furthermore, vulnerable populations like the elderly, lower-income communities, and people with disabilities face a disproportionate impact of digital exclusion.

Surgery Hero's Approach to Combatting Digital Exclusion

  1. User-Centred Design (UCD): By employing a UCD approach, our products ensure inclusivity for individuals with varied digital proficiency and accessibility requirements. We also integrate behavioural design strategies addressing key barriers to inclusion, such as capability, opportunity, and motivation.
  2. Multimodal Service: We offer a versatile service, allowing users to engage with us through various channels, including mobile apps, telephone, video chat, and email. In the future, we aim to add even more means of access, like a web app, wireless devices, and physical artefacts.
  3. Language: Users receive a toolkit of resources to boost their understanding of surgeries and health areas they're keen to improve. We craft our materials at a level that's easily digestible for most readers. Additionally, we are working towards introducing multi-language support and culturally relevant personalisations to better accommodate individuals from diverse backgrounds.
  4. Privacy: We consider data security and privacy as essential components of our company. We've acquired best-in-class certifications for industry standards such as ISO27001 and HIPAA, ensuring our users can trust us with their data and privacy.
  5. Free for Users: Patients and employees access our service free of charge, thanks to funding from partners like hospital systems, employers, and insurers.

True inclusivity is still a work in progress, but we firmly believe that closing the digital gap in healthcare is crucial for promoting fair access to services like Surgery Hero. Through partnership and collaboration, we aim to create a healthcare system that harnesses digital technologies to benefit everyone, regardless of their digital capabilities.

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