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Digital accessibility: a plan of action for all patients

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Digital accessibility removes the barriers that prevent interaction with, or access to websites, digital tools and technologies, by people with disabilities.

Just like how digital tools give healthcare providers an extensive view of patient health, resulting in increased efficiency and improved medical outcomes, digital healthcare tools that are accessible to all patients gives them greater control over their health. But across our health service, work still needs to be done to ensure our ever-evolving digital tools are truly accessible to all.

“Is it possible to get the most out of digital primary care, while also tackling inequalities in access? Yes, but we are not there yet.”

This is an extract from Digital primary care: Improving access for all? Rapid evidence review, a report released by Nuffield Trust in April this year.

It continued: “To reduce the risk of making inequalities in access to care worse, we need a stronger focus on inclusive and flexible routes for accessing care at GP practices,”

The Nuffield report states that choice of different modes of consultation can empower patients previously disadvantaged by traditional face-to-face primary care in two ways. Firstly, by breaking down geographical barriers to health care, and secondly, by promoting patient autonomy.

We asked Product Manager Joe McGrath three questions on how Livi approaches these different modes of consultation, and is improving accessibility through its range of online solutions.

In your experience, when it comes to digital accessibility, what are the common problems?

When building technology, accessibility needs to be included from the word go. It is much more difficult to make things accessible retrospectively, but with the range of legacy technology used across the NHS, this is often unavoidable.

However, the impact of the pandemic - and the immediate uptake of digital services in healthcare - accelerated the need for more accessible tech, and people with ranging requirements turned to online tools.

New regulations also means that public sector organisations have a legal duty to make sure websites and apps meet accessibility requirements. The accessibility regulations aim to ensure that online public services are accessible to all users, including people with disabilities.

Our Practice Websites service is a great example of how we’ve adapted and responded to changing user needs, and how we’re helping practices to meet regulations. We’ve been working with practices to develop online services that improve the digital journey for both practice staff and patients. We do this by delivering a pre-built platform that provides a simple and clear digital access to patients. This can range from a single GP Practice to an entire ICS footprint.

How are you working with practices to further improve the digital accessibility gap?

Our aim is to make online services so good that people want to use them.

When looking at some practice websites, we can, unfortunately, see lots of potential issues. Content is often written badly, or doesn’t translate well to the screen, the look and feel is confusing and inconsistent, and accessibility issues make online transactions difficult if NHS Digital Service Manual standards are not met.

Our solution gives patients confidence to engage with online services and helps reduce unnecessary demand on GP telephone lines and enquiries at the front desk.

How is accessibility a focus for you going forward?

We want to continue to make healthcare more accessible to everyone. The Livi app is already available to six million patients across the country, and we’re the first digital healthcare provider to be rated 'Outstanding' by the CQC.

We have a team of content designers who specialise in developing accessible and engaging content. Practice Websites will provide every GP practice with a trusted, accessible NHS branded website allowing users to confidently and securely engage with digital content to support their needs.

Inconsistencies and poor accessibility can lead to low patient satisfaction. A digital-first website, built around patient needs, helps keep consistency across channels and create a better user experience. And by following NHS best practice, we can break down barriers to care, and help everyone find the help they need.

Click here to find out how our NHS-branded websites can help create a better experience for your patients and your team.

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