New research finds Baby Boomers mistrusting when it comes to digital health, with younger generations keen for more

Published on: 12 August 2019


PAGB, the consumer healthcare association, is calling for more digital solutions to help enable and support the public to self care.

This follows new research , which found that young people are more open to tracking and managing their health, with nearly two thirds (64%) of 18-35 year olds using a digital device or mobile app, versus just 29% of 46-55 year olds and 13% of 56-65 year olds. Despite this, only 16% of people asked use a device or app to access information about health conditions and symptoms specifically, focusing more on general wellbeing and lifestyle management. In particular, just over a third of people (36%) use a digital device/mobile app (e.g Fitbit, MyFitnessPal) to track or “keep on top” of their health and wellbeing.

John Smith, PAGB Chief Executive, comments:

“Our research found there is scope to vastly expand and improve access to technology that helps people identify and manage self-treatable conditions. Each year there are 18 million GP appointments for self-treatable conditions, which do not need a doctor’s consultation. This costs the NHS £810 million, money that could be reinvested elsewhere if more people were empowered to self care.

“According to our research, younger people, in particular, want digital solutions in healthcare. Moreover, we found that around half of pharmacists (45%) and GPs (60%) agree that it would be beneficial to provide more information digitally to enable people to self care. However, this positive sentiment and appetite for change is not yet matched by action – we believe more could be done to utilise technology specifically to support people to self care.”

GP Dr Sarah Jarvis says:

“It’s clear that people are increasingly receptive to more digital adaptations to their care pathways. From checking their symptoms on the internet (51%), to tracking their health and wellbeing via a digital device or app (56% use one every day), this research has identified key areas that can be progressed and improved.

“The NHS needs to make it easier for people to access health information, so that they know which health service is right for their needs. I agree with the PAGB recommendation that the NHS website and NHS app should include a section dedicated to self care, with fact sheets and easy to understand videos, helping to improve people’s understanding of self care. Similarly, we would like to see online triage systems directing people based on their symptoms and sending them to pharmacy when appropriate for self-treatable conditions, rather than the GP. Giving pharmacists ‘write’ access to people’s health records would help people to see pharmacists as part of the primary care team and help me, as a GP, to provide seamless care, as I will know what advice or treatments the pharmacist has recommended.”

John Smith continues:

“As people are increasingly interested in using technology to better understand their health, we believe there are opportunities to explore how existing apps and wearables can support greater self care and encourage the appropriate use of pharmacies to give people fast access to appropriate care.”

These research findings coincide with the publication of a report, Self care and technology: Harnessing the potential of technology to transform self care, which includes further information on the proposed recommendations and evidential case studies.

Read report - Self care and technology: Harnessing the potential of technology to transform self care