Digital health literacy

Digital skills enable safe access to reliable and trustworthy health information, resources and services.

Digital health literacy is essential for everyone to make informed, confident choices to support their health and wellbeing using online tools and resources.

Significant advancements have been made in digital health during the pandemic. Telehealth – patients and medical professionals interacting via a digital device or phone – saw a rapid rise in use, reaching over 10 million patients since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, the majority of telehealth consults are still happening by telephone rather than through video conferencing. This indicates that there is a big opportunity to support the uptake of online health services.

One of the most significant barriers facing the digital health agenda is how to connect with people who have low or no digital health literacy skills or confidence. The ‘digital health divide’ is recognised as an issue impacting the uptake of digital health initiatives in both Australia’s National Digital Health Strategy and the National Digital Health Workforce and Education Roadmap.

People particularly at-risk of missing out includes older people, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, people living in rural and remote areas, and people with disability. These communities also have higher incidences of chronic health conditions or are at greater risk of mental health issues.

Supporting people in at-risk communities to improve their digital health skills and confidence enables safe access to reliable and trustworthy information, resources and services. It supports people to benefit from Medicare funded telehealth appointments, electronic prescribing, health and wellbeing apps, and online government health services such as My Health Record.