How to Ensure That Your Digital Care Program is Accessible and Inclusive

As healthcare takes large strides forward to incorporate digital care delivery, it’s critical to ensure that patients aren’t being left behind. Digital care delivery has the opportunity to level the playing field for groups that have been traditionally underserved, but it also has the potential to worsen current and historical problems of inclusivity and accessibility.

In this article, we’ll take a look at why inclusion and accessibility are so important in healthcare, how digital care can help us reduce or eliminate those disparities, and how organizations that are in the process of adopting digital care strategies can identify solutions that are designed to ensure healthcare equity.

What Is Health Inequity?

Populations of people who suffer worse health outcomes than other groups as the result of preventable diseases and injuries are experiencing health inequity. Common factors that contribute to health inequity include race, geographic location, age, socioeconomic status, disabilities, gender, and mental health.1 For example, people in rural communities experience a higher rate of chronic conditions but less access to healthcare.2 According to The National Rural Health Association, the patient-to-primary care physician ratio in rural areas is only 39.8 physicians per 100,000 people, compared to 53.3 physicians per 100,000 in urban areas.3

Digital care technologies have the potential to vastly improve early access to high-quality care, which has been shown to improve patient outcomes by providing better quality of life, easing reliance on emergency and late-stage interventions, and reducing early deaths.4

Why Inclusivity and Accessibility Matter in Digital Care

Although digital care offers the ability to improve population health through removing barriers to care, it can’t achieve that goal if it’s not designed with accessibility in mind. Key benefits of inclusive and accessible digital care programs include:

Better Access to Care

By designing digital health platforms and tools that are accessible to everyone, including individuals with disabilities, older adults, and those from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds, organizations can bridge gaps in healthcare access and provide equitable care to underserved populations.

Enhanced Patient Engagement

Inclusive and accessible digital care promotes patient engagement by accommodating individuals with varying needs and preferences. Patients are more likely to actively participate in their care when they can easily access and use digital tools tailored to their specific requirements with features such as intuitive interfaces, larger font size, and straightforward language.

Improved Health Outcomes

Accessible digital care helps improve health outcomes by ensuring that patients can effectively communicate with clinicians, access educational resources, monitor their health, and adhere to treatment plans. Removing barriers to access empowers patients to take a more proactive role in managing their health and well-being.

Compliance with Legal and Ethical Standards

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires healthcare providers in the U.S. to ensure that digital services are accessible to individuals with disabilities. Compliance with accessibility standards not only meets legal obligations but also demonstrates a commitment to patients.

Improved Chronic Disease Management

Due to the aging of the Baby Boomer generation, the average age of the U.S. population is higher than ever before, with the rate of chronic diseases also increasing.5 That’s why it’s especially important to ensure that digital care is accessible to older adults and those with chronic conditions who rely on digital tools for remote monitoring, medication management, home exercises, and telehealth consultations to manage their health from home.

Better Patient Trust and Rapport

Acknowledging diverse needs demonstrates empathy and helps patients feel valued and understood, leading to better trust with patients and communities.

Financial Benefits

When greater numbers of patients are able to successfully use your digital care program to better manage their conditions, they’ll experience fewer complications and better outcomes, leading to reduced costs.

Strategies for Ensuring Inclusivity and Accessibility

An important part of designing inclusive and accessible digital care is adopting a user-centered approach that considers the diverse needs and abilities of the target audience. This approach might include the following best practices:

Follow Inclusive Visual Design Protocols

Use inclusive visual design practices, such as providing high color contrast, incorporating clear and readable fonts, and avoiding flashing or distracting elements that could trigger seizures or discomfort. Design interfaces with scalable fonts and responsive layouts to accommodate different screen sizes and resolutions.

MedBridge Example: Easily Readable Text
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Use Clear, Straightforward Language

To ensure that your programs are accessible and easy to use for different audiences, aim for an 8th grade reading level or below, and reduce jargon and complex medical terms. Incorporate common, everyday examples that are as universal as possible.

MedBridge Example: Clear Explanation of Exercise Results
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Provide Subtitles and Captions

Provide captioning to accommodate patients who are hard of hearing or prefer to communicate in languages other than the default language of the digital platform. Offer options for language selection and ensure that translations are accurate and culturally appropriate.

MedBridge Example: Closed Captions
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Comply with Accessibility Standards

Adhere to recognized accessibility standards and guidelines as much as possible, such as the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) and Section 508 standards. Ensure that digital health platforms you are using are compatible with assistive technologies such as screen readers and voice recognition software, and provide alternative formats for content such as text transcripts for videos.

Ensure Patient Education Is Easy to Use

Develop patient education materials such as brochures, videos, and web site content that are accessible and easy to understand for individuals with varying levels of health literacy and cognitive abilities. Use plain language, visual aids, and interactive elements to enhance comprehension.

MedBridge Example: Clear Patient Education with Images
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Prioritize Feedback and Adaptation

Establish ongoing processes for gathering feedback from patients, caregivers, and other stakeholders on the accessibility and usability of your digital care solutions. Use this feedback to identify areas for improvement and enhance accessibility over time in an interactive, systematic way.

MedBridge: Your Partner for Inclusive and Accessible Digital Care

At MedBridge, we design our patient-facing solutions—including Home Exercise Program, Patient Education, and Pathways—to be accessible for diverse audiences by taking into account age, language fluency, varying attention spans, differences in body size, a wide range of disabilities, and more. Our solutions also incorporate user-centered design elements such as high visual contrast, large fonts, and images illustrating text. We follow WCAG guidelines as closely as possible, inviting feedback and continuing to adapt and evolve as we move forward.