Exploring Telehealth Readiness in a Resource Limited Setting: Digital and Health Literacy among Older People in Rural India (DAHLIA)
journal contributionposted on 31.03.2022, 05:37 by Tshepo RasekabaTshepo Rasekaba, Pratibha Pereira, Vinaya Rani. G, Riya Johnson, Rebecca McKechnieRebecca McKechnie, Irene BlackberryIrene Blackberry
An ageing population, disproportionally affecting developing countries, increases demand on healthcare systems. Digital health offers access to healthcare for older people, particularly those residing in rural areas, as is the case for 71% of older adults in India. This research examined technology uptake and digital and health literacy (eHEALS) among a sample of 150 older adults in rural Mysore and Suttur, India. The study utilised mixed-method, with descriptive analysis of quantitative data and thematic analysis of qualitative data. Low rates of digital (11%) and health literacy (3–27% across domains) were identified. Mobile phone ownership was 50%, but very few owned or used a smartphone and less than 10% used the Internet to contact health professionals. Qualitative analysis found low technology usage, driven by limited exposure and confidence in using digital devices. Barriers to usage included poor traditional literacy and physical aspects of ageing like poor vision. Social support from neighbours, family and local primary healthcare staff may enable adoption of digital health. Access to healthcare through digital means among Indian rural older adults needs to consider low rates of both digital and health literacy and leverage the value of support from family and primary healthcare providers.