This year, most of us have relied on technology more than ever. At no other point in our lives have our personal experiences of work, social interaction and medical care existed so completely in the digital space.
For some people, the practicality of this shift was quite seamless. Those working in more complex office jobs who spend hours each day using a computer, Face-Timing friends and consuming most of their news online, adapted quickly to the greater use of familiar tools.
While almost everyone felt lonely, isolated or anxious during the first weeks of lockdown, many were plunged into a completely alien existence. They were unfamiliar with technology. Their work could not be done outside the home. The option to seek help and support in person – from a relative, friend or health professional – was suddenly removed.
Many of those affected in this way have low levels of health literacy – that is, the degree to which individuals have the ability to find, understand and use information and services to inform health-related decisions and actions for themselves and others. The barrage of information around a fast-moving pandemic – much of it contradictory, heavily scientific or based on false truths – was incredibly difficult to navigate. Even those with a ‘critical’ level of health literacy – meaning they can easily take information from multiple sources and apply the relevant aspects to themselves – struggled to keep up.
At the time of most need, even mental health services moved predominantly online. In the U.K., there has been a 15 percent increase in urgent and emergency NHS referrals for mental health issues since lockdown, yet bed capacity for mental health inpatients has reduced by 30 percent.
The ripple effect of coronavirus continues and digital platforms will continue to play a wholly dominant role in most aspects of our lives and information overload shows no sign of waning. This means clarity of and trust in communication will become more vital than ever. The health care sector is well placed to provide people with meaningful information and support – but to truly make a difference to those who need the most help, it must keep health literacy considerations front of mind.
This article was authored by James Osborn, Director, at sister company AXON Communications
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