The Digitalisation of Illness

‘Dr Google’ is often the first stop for many of us when we have symptoms of illness. Many of us have heard, or said, ‘Don’t google it’ when someone raises unusual health problems. We know it is better to see a clinician, but we often don’t have the patience to wait for an appointment, or our curiosity gets the better of us. Online results to health searches are notoriously all-encompassing and therefore often more alarming than they need to be. It is important that providers of health and care services, such as the NHS in the UK, respond to this need and expectation for information and guidance.

HealthWeb Solutions developed the Use The Right Service website, which has been used by NHS organisations to support communities access the correct NHS service. The intention is to ensure that people get the right care at the right time and to ensure that NHS resources are used as effectively as possible for those who need them. had over 35,000 visitors in April 2021, 98% of whom were in the UK. Many of these visitors were checking symptoms and how to access services. Ensuring that information and signposting remains current is our key priority and we are pleased to support the NHS with an alternative to ‘Dr Google’.

It is important to note that digital access to health and care information is only one part of the story however. Our work with the Centre for the Analysis of Social Policy at the University of Bath highlights the risk of digital isolation for those who are unable to access online resources. We have published our analysis and recommendations here.

We are always pleased to hear from people with lived experience. Your story can, with your permission, be used for create a personal case study, as part of our ongoing work on accessibility and disability and with health and social care services partners. Please feel free to contact us in confidence.

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