Inclusion in Digital Health

Digital Health Week, which takes places between the 29th November and 3rd December, is a global week of action to advocate for digital health and its critical role in providing health for all by 2030.

Social inclusion isn’t always at the forefront of conversations about digital health or education, but they should be. As the need for evidence-based rehabilitation services continues to grow around the world, access to rehabilitation knowledge needs to grow in parallel. Unfortunately for some, access is a challenge and if we don’t ask difficult questions of ourselves then we are part of the problem and not the solution.

Over the past decade, there has been a gradual shift towards a “digital-first” mindset for training and access to knowledge. As recent evidence shows digital and online learning is as, if not more, effective for teaching healthcare professionals. But how can we ensure equal access to this digital knowledge, as much as possible, to those who need it around the world?

Let’s start with understanding social inclusion in a digital context.  This can be understood as the process of improving the terms of participation in a digital context, particularly for those who are disadvantaged, through enhancing opportunities, access to resources, voice and respect for rights. This equates to equal access for all.

Is Physiopedia Doing Enough?

Physiopedia is the largest online rehabilitation website in the world, which means we have a responsibility to be a role model for digital inclusivity for both healthcare professionals and patients. Our mission is to provide universal and equitable access to all physiotherapy knowledge; this mission is synonymous with digital inclusivity, but are we doing enough?

We support social digital inclusion by remaining free to access while also working towards being accessible offline through the Physiopedia App. This is particularly important for individuals who may not have ready access to the internet or intermittent connectivity.  Physiopedia pages can be downloaded online and then used offline when in areas without internet access.  

However, achieving our mission of making physiotherapy knowledge available for free, and to those who need it is incredibly challenging and yet to be fully achieved. Take language for example, making the entire Physiopedia knowledge base available in all major languages is more complex than using simple translation tools. Simple online translation tools are often inadequate when using technical medical language or specific science-based language which means translators are essential.

Thinking about inclusion in a digital context also means promoting knowledge accessibility to all types of populations and contexts, including those living and working in low-resource settings or who may be accessing or providing rehabilitative care in disaster or conflict situations.  Physiopedia has many Content Development Projects, which focus on assistive technology, women’s health, rehabilitation in conflict situations and refugee health, for example.  It is important for social inclusion that Physiopedia pages have something for everyone.

Is Physioplus Doing Enough?

Physioplus, our e-learning platform which contains courses and resources for healthcare professionals, also has digital social inclusion at its heart. Our “buy a subscription give a subscription” model enables us to provide free access to clinicians working in low-income countries giving them access to education which would typically be unobtainable. 

Digital inclusion also means that online resources and knowledge sharing is easy to access by all people of different levels of ability.  For example, Physioplus course content is available through text, audio files, and subtitled videos.  It is also our goal to offer Physioplus courses in different languages.

However, accessibility is just one aspect of digital inclusion. It is also about having equal representation of all persons so that we can learn from different perspectives, backgrounds cultural contexts and experiences. Physioplus has a commitment to having a wide diversity of course presenters who share their knowledge in the context they work. As we live in an ever more globalised society, having this diversity means we can better meet the needs of our population’s health needs wherever we work in the world.

Our Pledges To Continue To Promote Digital Social Inclusion

Both Physiopedia and Physioplus have long-term commitments to digital social inclusion as we continue to strive to promote and share high-quality rehabilitation knowledge that is accessible and sustainable for all.  Digital social inclusion will continue to be at the heart of what we do, and although we have achieved many things to be proud of which promotes inclusivity, there is still much more for us to do.  We pledge to continue to:

  • Offer free resources to all, wherever possible
  • Strive for offline access to important resources  
  • Ensure equal access to digital rehabilitation knowledge, particularly for those who may be disadvantaged by geographical location or access to technology
  • Continue to promote a diverse team of  course presenters for equal representation of backgrounds, cultural contexts and experiences
  • Promote access to our resources by considering the language and levels of ability of our knowledge-users
  • Ensure our content respects gender equality and social inclusion (GESI) guidelines
  • Promote mutual respect for all voices and experiences while ensuring accessibility and inclusion to digital platforms.