Digital Exclusion Case Studies: Covid-19 Patient Experience

We spoke to people who are digitally excluded to find out their reasons for not being online, and how this has affected their experiences during the coronavirus pandemic.
Man on laptop screen

Background to the research

During the Covid-19 outbreak, Healthwatch Hertfordshire carried out three online surveys to better understand the public experiences of mental health, shielding and health and social care services more generally. To ensure that we also heard from those who do not have access to, or do not feel competent using the internet we carried out an additional piece of work to speak to those who have been digitally excluded during the pandemic

What is Digital Exclusion?

Digital exclusion is the inability to access or use online products or services, which can result from multiple factors such as affordability, accessibility, lack of confidence, skills and trust.

What We Did 

Between August and September 2020, we used a qualitative case study approach to conduct six in-depth interviews with people across the county.

What We Found

  • For the people we spoke to, the main barrier to digital inclusion was the cost of devices and the mistrust of online platforms, particularly social media and online banking.

When I hear what people are paying monthly, I mean, that’s put me off, but I would think it would be a no-go for a lot of people

  • Other barriers included physical ability, lack of skills and lack of confidence to use their devices to get online.

My orthopaedic surgeon and my GP recommended me to avoid computers, so I tried to avoid computers.

  • People shared their experiences of missed healthcare appointments, and increased feelings of isolation and loneliness during the coronavirus pandemic.

I normally just go ring up or go in there and they give me an appointment, but I don’t know what the procedure is now so I haven’t bothered going.

  • People were frustrated that most of the information about the coronavirus pandemic could only be found online.

It’s annoying when you can’t find answers to some of your questions and if you want to communicate with people and all they ever give you is a website

  • Some, but not all participants were motivated to become digitally included, seeing it as a way to increase their independence, help them access more information, and keep in contact with friends and family.

It would help greatly if I could learn how to [get online] and I could do it by myself… I would do if I could

What happens next?

Healthwatch Hertfordshire will use the six case studies to inform future work and will share the findings with health and social care services in Hertfordshire so that digital inclusion initiatives can learn from the experiences expressed in our report.

Read the full report here

Digital Exclusion Case Studies: Covid-19 Patient Experience

If you require this report in another format, please get in touch.

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