It’s time we faced up to the digital divide

In pharma, as in life, it’ easy to get excited by the latest ‘new thing’.

And never is this more true than when it comes to the topic de jour, digital health. From apps to augmented reality, the industry is (quite rightly) keen to explore new ways to engage patients in their health.

And some truly groundbreaking tech is being successfully applied by pharma in the quest for beyond the pill value.

But a report published by the Good Things Foundation this week should give pause for thought as to just how much of an all-encompassing solution ‘digital’ is in the real world, where people are dealing with everyday life challenges, and not just their health.

The report – The Real Digital Divide – shines a light on the UK’ population of digitally excluded men and women. Those who are either complete non-users of the internet, or whose life circumstances only allow limited use of the internet.

The headline figures of the report are pretty eye opening. Here are our three standout facts:

  1. More than 15 million people in the UK are non- or limited-users of the internet.
  2. More than a third of the non-user population are under 65 years old. So it’ not just the old folk who don’t use the web!
  3. Almost half of non-users have a disability or long-standing health issue.

Let number 3 sink in for a moment – a significant chunk of those whose health is at greatest risk are also those who are least likely to be online.

At ARK Comms we believe in the transformative power of digital for healthier lives as much as the next ‘digital agency’. But we also know it’ not a panacea.

Of course digital has the potential to change lives for the better. (It already is!)

Of course more and more people are going online globally, and this trend will continue.

And of course, online health information can be exceptionally important to people who are in the throes of a new condition, or trying to manage their long-term health.

But let’ not forget that those who are in the greatest need – that is, those with the greatest health burdens – are often those who have the least access to health information.

If you work in health, digital or otherwise, suffice to say it’ worth reading the report and thinking about what you are doing to democratise your health information for all.

And feel free to share your thoughts on the report by commenting below.

Report details

  • The real digital divide? Understanding the demographics of non-users and limited users of the internet: an analysis of Ofcom data. Good Things Foundation & Professor Simeon Yates, July 2017.