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Digital Divide in Health Care: Are we Turning the Tide?

2 min

Marco Verch Professional Photographer
Almost 28 million people in England have registered with NHS login, and more than 16 million have signed up for the NHS App, with the demand for digital healthcare services greater than ever during the coronavirus pandemic.

Around half of adults in England have access to digital healthcare, according to the latest statistics from NHS Digital. The digital service has had 25.8 million more users than the same time in 2020.

The online service, which is managed by NHS Digital, provides people with a quick and secure single point of access to a variety of digital health and care websites and apps using just one email address and password.

A total of 45 apps and e-health services are available through NHS login, including e-Referral services, Covid-19 support and advice, maternity and child health services, online pharmacies, and services to monitor and improve health and wellbeing.

25 million increase in health app downloads

It is hoped that the uptake in older adults downloading the app for digital healthcare will bridge the digital divide within the health care sector. Something that is widely celebrated and opens a window of opportunities for other sectors to follow.

Melissa Ruscoe, Citizen Identity (NHS login) Programme Head at NHS Digital told Quadrant Health: “Through the services integrated with NHS login people can book GP appointments, order lateral flow tests, register their organ donation preferences, and much more. This helps free up valuable time for GP practice staff and provides a simple and efficient way for people to take control of their healthcare and access services easily and securely.”

A peak in the number of people setting up an NHS login took place in May, which coincided with the launch of the NHS COVID Pass. On 17 May alone, when the NHS COVID Pass launched, around 245,000 people created an NHS login account.

Booking online appointments take pressure off NHS staff

NHS App users are benefiting from easier access to NHS services. This was one of the major setbacks for digital connectivity with older adults, as ease of access was a big concern. Despite this, during the past four months, almost 3.2 million repeat prescriptions were ordered and over 268,000 GP appointments were booked via the app, saving valuable time for patients and clinicians.

We are pleased to see such a massive uptake in people managing their healthcare needs digitally throughout the coronavirus pandemic

Adding to this, Melissa explained: “We are pleased to see such a massive uptake in people managing their healthcare needs digitally throughout the coronavirus pandemic, with around half of people in England now able to access digital healthcare services through NHS login.

Emma McLachlan, director of the digital experience at NHSX, rounded up by explaining: “In the past 18 months the NHS has made huge progress in offering access to care online. Through NHS login, we can give the public direct access to choices, information, and services, and help them stay healthy. We will always offer non-digital alternatives, but if you can download the NHS app and haven’t yet done so, please do.”