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Digital technologies can improve health and care services for staff and patients, but there is no guarantee that everyone will be able to take advantage of these improvements.

Some people are at risk of digital exclusion, which is the lack of access, skills and capabilities needed to engage with devices or digital services that help people take part in society, including their health care

To find out more about people’s experience of using digital services and what can be improved, we spoke to people with lived experience and service providers to understand the issues and what might help improve digital inclusion. Our findings are now available below.

Project content

What did we do?

We undertook a research project that aimed to improve knowledge of the unique ways technology can exclude but also include people and communities.

We worked with people and communities to understand their experiences of physical and digital care, as well as their hopes and concerns for the future of digitally enabled health and care.

Why did we do this?

Digital technologies are neither inherently good or inherently bad, however if implemented without engaging with citizens and a good understanding of the factors for successful use of technologies, then there is increased risk of negative experiences and outcomes. The project insight aims to support the development of digital transformation plans that address population needs and capabilities by taking advantage of the benefits of digital technologies while minimising exclusion.


This work aims to support developing integrated care systems (ICSs) – specifically digital leads and inequality leads – to develop a greater understanding of the long-term challenge from the potential impact of digital technologies on care experiences, outcomes and inequalities. The findings support leaders to plan a digital strategy that facilitates the use of digital technologies to enhance patient care and consider the needs of different communities.

Why now?

The Covid-19 pandemic and the subsequent default reliance on technology has catapulted digital technologies into the spotlight demonstrating net benefit for some and net detriment for others. Neither digital nor physical care are perfect, instead both need to be provided in a way that improves patient experiences and outcomes. As outlined in the ICS design framework policy paper, ICSs are developing digital infrastructure and plans for their health and care system. It is essential that these plans maximise the benefit technologies bring while mitigating the risk of increasing inequalities

Project team