NHS Digital said that a recently undertaken project has shown how digital health tools helped in enhancing access to healthcare for patients suffering from hearing and sight loss.

The project taken up under NHS Digital’s Widening Digital Participation (WDP) Programme enabled people with sensory impairments in West Yorkshire and Harrogate gain awareness on using digital health tools to make their visits to the GP easier.

According to the agency, more than 750 people benefitted from the project. The goal of the project is to support improvements in accessing health and wellbeing services for people living with the two conditions.

The project, which was overseen by Leeds-based mHabitat, was designed to know more about the challenges experienced by people with hearing and sight loss in making and attending GP appointments.

Among the problems reported are difficulties booking GP appointments, communicating during consultations, accessing buildings and waiting areas, and reading information letters or leaflets.

To overcome the challenges, digital health tools such as online appointment booking, electronic note-takers, an app which converts a mobile phone into a hearing aid, and apps using artificial intelligence were explored.

NHS Digital said that the subsequent research helped in the creation of a list of useful apps and technology for GPs and other organisations to help them support the visually challenged and patients with hearing loss.

NHS Digital WDP programme director Nicola Gill said: “This pathfinder has successfully shown how day-to-day technology can help overcome some of the challenges faced by people with hearing and visual impairments when they visit their GP.

“It has highlighted some valuable learning points, such as focusing on digital inclusion, listening to and working with patients and encouraging GPs to recognise that patients with disabilities may need additional support.

“We are pleased to have learned so much from this project and hope that GPs and other health practitioners across the country will adopt this model of digital inclusion to support their patients with visual and hearing impairments.”

The aim of the NHS Digital’s Widening Digital Participation Programme is to make digital health services and information accessible to everyone, especially the most excluded people in society.

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