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The OnlineClinic Health Blog Everyone for your health

What Kind Of Health Service Do Teens Want?

Posted in E-Health & Technology 20 Jul, 2015

Do you have a child or teen that is glued to a device, be it a tablet, mobile or Xbox? Perhaps you are glued to one yourself. It makes the future of healthcare provision pretty certain, doesn't it? It'll be digital.

Young People Online

Anything we need we can get online. Clothes, food, exercise and a social life are but a click away. There is no need to set foot outside your door these days unless you need to see the doctor, and now even healthcare services are becoming more readily available online.

Today's young people will probably seek to avoid physically attending a doctor's surgery because of their total dedication to the internet. Older folk may remember a time when you had to walk to shops and the TV had four – or even three - channels. Not so for our current teenage generation - the internet has always existed for them.

How Does E-Health Appeal To Young People?

An NHS experiment in Leicestershire offered schoolchildren the option of texting their school nurse for medical advice, and the result was overwhelming. Schoolchildren took to the new system immediately and engaged with issues such as contraception, mental health and substance misuse. Teenage boys in particular were more likely to text than see the nurse in person.

This can only be about embarrassment. Teenagers are painfully aware of social situations. A face-to-face meeting spent trying desperately to avoid eye contact may be too much personal interaction for a 14-year-old boy with depression. Texting is so much simpler.

How Do Young People Currently Influence E-Health?

Let's take Haringey as an example. Teenage pregnancy was high - at one point it was the highest in the UK, but since 2009 the rate has halved. In 2012-13 the rate fell by 37% which was faster than London. Why might that be?

One of the reasons was due to a health app created in response to the pregnancy rate. The health service included young people in their material designs. The resulting Health and Wellbeing app was downloaded by 500 Haringey youngsters.

Alongside this, a sex education video promoted the London-wide C-card scheme, which provides holders with access to clinics and free condoms through the capital. 5000 young people in Haringey now have this card.

What Might Happen In The Future

The school texting experiment and Haringey response highlights that we are inches from a healthcare revolution, if we're not already in one. Young people are au fait with technology, its second nature to text rather than speak. This can only mean more technology changes are in store for the NHS.

Part of me feels sorry for today's young people, who may not get the physical one-on-one attention so important for us as social beings. We've all failed to grasp irony, sarcasm and humour by text. Body language speaks volumes to a doctor, and it may be this that disappears in the future.

I guess it makes sense though. The internet saves time, travel and embarrassment. Anything that engages the younger generation to take care of their health must be welcomed.

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