Health literacy, digital health literacy and the implementation of digital health technologies in cancer care: the need for a strategic approach

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52 Citations (Scopus)


Issue addressed: Digital health technologies can potentially reduce health disparities in cancer care. However, the benefits of digital health technology depend partly on users’ digital health literacy, that is, “capabilities and resources required for individuals to use and benefit from digital health resources,” which combines health and digital literacy. We examined issues for digital health technology implementation in cancer care regarding digital health literacy, via stakeholder consultation. Methods: Consumers, health care professionals, researchers, developers, nongovernment and government/policy stakeholders (N = 51) participated in focus groups/interviews discussing barriers, enablers, needs and opportunities for digital health implementation in cancer care. Researchers applied framework analysis to identify themes of digital health literacy in the context of disparity and inclusion. Results: Limited digital and traditional health literacy were identified as barriers to digital technology engagement, with a range of difficulties identified for older, younger and socio-economically or geographically disadvantaged groups. Digital health technology was a potential enabler of health care access and literacy, affording opportunities to increase reach and engagement. Education combined with targeted design and implementation were identified means of addressing health and digital literacy to effectively implement digital health in cancer care. Conclusions: Implementing digital health in cancer care must address the variability of digital health literacy in recipients, including groups living with disadvantage and older and younger people, in order to be effective. So what?: If cancer outcome disparity is to be reduced via digital health technologies, they must be implemented strategically to address digital health literacy needs. Health policy should reflect this approach.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)104-114
Number of pages11
JournalHealth Promotion Journal of Australia
Issue numberS1
Early online date21 Sept 2020
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2021


  • cancer
  • eHealth
  • health literacy
  • health services accessibility
  • vulnerable populations


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