Exploring the use of digital technology to deliver healthcare services with explicit consideration of health inequalities in UK settings: A scoping review

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Abstract

Objective: To map and explore existing evidence on the use of digital technology to deliver healthcare services with explicit consideration of health inequalities in UK settings.

Methods
: We searched six bibliographic databases, and the National Health Service (NHS) websites of each UK nation (England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland). Restrictions were applied on publication date (2013-2021) and publication language (English). Records were independently screened against eligibility criteria by pairs of reviewers from the team. Articles reporting relevant qualitative and/or quantitative research were included. Data were synthesised narratively.

Results
: 11 articles, reporting data from nine interventions, were included. Articles reported findings from quantitative (n=5), qualitative (n=5), and mixed-methods (n=1) studies. Study settings were mainly community-based, with only one hospital-based. Two interventions targeted service users, and seven interventions targeted healthcare providers. Two studies were explicitly and directly aimed at (and designed for) addressing health inequalities, with the remining studies addressing them indirectly (e.g., study population can be classed as disadvantaged). Seven articles reported data on implementation outcomes (acceptability, appropriateness, and feasibility) and four articles reported data on effectiveness outcomes, with only one intervention demonstrating cost-effectiveness.

Conclusions
: It is not yet clear if digital health interventions/services in the UK work for those most at risk of health inequalities. The current evidence base is significantly underdeveloped, and research/intervention efforts have been largely driven by healthcare provider/system needs, rather than those of service users. Digital health interventions can help address health inequalities, but a range of barriers persist, alongside a potential for exacerbation of health inequalities.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
JournalDigital Health
Volume9
Early online date29 Jun 2023
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2023

Keywords

  • Scoping review
  • United Kingdom
  • delivery of health care
  • digital technology
  • disadvantaged populations
  • health inequities

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Information Management
  • Health Policy
  • Health Informatics
  • Computer Science Applications

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