Unleashing the potential of digital health isn’t simply a tech challenge

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From biosensors and biometrics to wearables and widgets, the age of digital health is well and truly upon us.

But beyond the headlines of record-breaking digital health funding, a big question remains as to how the tremendous potential of digital technologies can be translated into real-world value in the healthcare sector.

Let’s not forget that in healthcare, ‘value’ centres on one simple thing: health. Either a healthier end user or a healthier, more economical healthcare system.

So what can we do to more consistently – and measurably – help to improve health with digital technologies?

Here’s my 5-part manifesto:

1 | Forget about digital natives

You’ve heard the narrative: that those whippersnappers born with a smartphone strapped to their palm and busily Instagramming smashed-avocado-on-rye are bestowed with early-embedded digital skills beyond those of their tech-idiot parents.

It makes sense. But guess what? Digital natives don’t really exist. Certainly not in a way that meaningfully impacts how we design digital health services.

Recent research punctures the myth of the multi-tasking digital native. It shows that the younger generation uses technology in the same ways as older people, and is no better at multitasking.

Of course people born in the past couple of decades have had the opportunity to use more digital technologies. But such use doesn’t automatically equate to true expertise or ability to access and understand digital health information. No matter your age, the mental effort – or ‘cognitive cost’ – of using badly designed digital tools can come at the expense of meaningful learning and engagement.

So don’t fall into the trap of presuming younger generations are innately predisposed to ‘get’ digital. Instead, think in terms of minimising cognitive cost and creating as undemanding an interface as possible, for everyone. And don’t presume digital is beyond the capabilities of older generations simply because they’ve been around the sun a few more times.

2 | Design for accessibility and inclusivity

So how do you minimise cognitive cost? Through thoughtful, evidence-backed design. Research is plentiful on how to simplify language, design and interfaces. From straightforward things like font size and contrast ratios to information architecture, this sort of stuff isn’t about the latest design fad, but what the evidence says works when it comes to engaging patients in health information.

And evidence is plentiful. Understanding that lots of people have low health literacy – and learning about ways to address that – is helpful. But also look out for things like the NHS Information Standard and industry guidelines from the likes of the Government Digital Services to get started. Then delve into the copious research that deals with accessible design in health.

Together these standards and research-backed principles point to a bigger concept we should be striving for in health: digital inclusiveness.

Read more: http://digileaders.com/unleashing-potential-digital-health-isnt-simply-tech-challenge/?utm_source=Digital+Leaders+Main+List&utm_campaign=f888d4de9e-Mailer+27+October&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_0205df39fb-f888d4de9e-160612477&mc_cid=f888d4de9e&mc_eid=ef4e25b1f0

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