Digital health literacy support for people living with COPD

21 July 2023

People living with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) can receive support to use technology to better manage their condition through an innovative pilot project in that aims to build confidence and improve online and digital skills.

Living Connected, a not for profit organisation mostly staffed by volunteers, is offering digital health literacy ‘clinics’ at local libraries, community centres and some aged care facilities in the Illawarra, Shoalhaven, Eurobodalla and Goulburn areas along with one-to-one support for some people to improve their digital health literacy.

Elaine Avery said the Living Connected sessions have helped her feel more confident using her phone to install apps and knowing how to use them. She learnt of the program through her Lungs in Action group.

“Now I’ve got the different health websites saved in my phone, I can look things up using proper official web sites and not doctor google,” said Elaine.

“The apps will help me keep an eye on my health, I go regularly to my doctor and specialist but I can now find out a bit more information in the meantime,” said Elaine.

Living Connected’s digital health literacy support for people with COPD is funded by COORDINARE - South Eastern NSW PHN.

Prue Buist, COORDINARE’s CEO said, “Health is an area where there is so much useful information online. It is important for people with chronic disease to be able to find and understand accurate information as well as discuss it with their health professionals and then apply it to better manage that disease.

“Most people today have a smart phone and there are great apps they can use if they know how to find and install them.

“A 2020 study* by the Australian Communications and Media Authority showed at least 78% of Australians aged 65 and older access the internet via their phones and 93% have internet in their home. An increasing number of Australians are engaging with technology due to necessity but 80% of the 65+ group surveyed by ACMA said using technology is challenging,” said Ms Buist.

“By assisting people living with chronic conditions like COPD to improve their digital literacy we can enable them to harness technology to improve their quality of life,” said Ms Buist.

According to Managing Director and founder of Living Connected, Professor Helen Hasan, “Many people are fearful of technology, and this is even more so these days with the prevalence of the many different scams and their associated risks. Living Connected supports people to understand and manage these risks and then to harness technology to improve their quality of life. The focus is on what the person wants to do not on the technology itself.

“Many older people and carers may need help with basic digital skills such as connecting to wifi, using a browser, staying safe online, installing apps. We aim to help people with COPD to assess which online sources of information or apps to install on their phone or tablet can be trusted and which to avoid,” said Helen.

The project aims to increase support, decrease anxiety, and where possible, avoid stressful visits to the hospital.

“It could be helping someone access an app to manage flareups, a guided video to help with breathlessness, information about medication side effects or advice on communicating with health professionals,” Helen added.

The pilot program is available to any person living with COPD, including those connected with local Lungs in Action groups which support people with COPD to remain active.

For more information contact Living Connected via the website or 0409 753 808.