A new Digital Health Champions Network aims to help tackle distrust in online health confidentiality.
The network was established following research by NHS Digital and Digital Unite that found a lack of digital skills was preventing patients from engaging with online health services.
Some 11.9 million people in the UK do not have the essential digital skills needed for day-to-day life which, coupled with a distrust of health information online, forms two of the biggest barriers for patients to use the internet.
While this figure is forecast to drop to 4.5 million by 2030, interventions to improve digital skills and confidence remain necessary to ensure a greater number of patients engage with online services, the NHS Digital and Digital Unite.
It found that specially trained health and social staff, alongside volunteers, can support patients to safely and confidently manage their health online.
This increases their confidence to use digital health tools the research concluded.
It found 58% of existing digital champions had been asked for assistance using search engines to find health information for specific conditions.
Nicola Gill, programme lead at NHS Digital, said: “We are committed to ensuring everyone has the confidence, skills and means to access and use digital health services and tools, particularly the most excluded.
“When it comes to health it’s incredibly important that people are helped in a personal and empathetic way and we know that digital health champions make that difference.”
Emma Weston, chief executive of Digital Unite, said digital champions can be a “game changer” in supporting people to obtain digital skills.
“Alongside NHS Digital we have discovered new opportunities for digital champions in health and a genuine passion and enthusiasm for doing something different and creative,” she added.
The research was supported by Brent CCG, Harrow CCG, Blackpool Teaching Hospitals, Waltham Forest CCG and North East London NHS Foundation Trust.
For more information visit NHS Digital’s website.