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Poor and chronically ill ‘should be prescribed fitness trackers’

Think tank warns many could miss out on the tech revolution in medicine

Poor and disabled people should be prescribed fitness trackers on the NHS to stop a further widening of health inequality, a think tank has suggested.

The Social Market Foundation (SMF) said some of the poorest communities and disabled people could be left behind by the technology revolution in medicine because they lack the skills or technology that others enjoy.

Those most at risk are on the lowest incomes, who are also most likely to be in poor health or to have a disability.

The research, reported by the Guardian, found that around 10% of UK households do not have internet access and one fifth of adults (21%) lack basic digital skills, with 16% not able to fill out an online application form.

In addition, 25% of those with a registered disability are offline, while people with the lowest household incomes are the least likely to have basic digital skills and more likely to have several medical conditions.

The SMF said the NHS should be ready to provide patients with personal technology to ensure they are not left behind, including smart scales, fitness trackers or smartphones.

“There is a risk that many of those who have the most to gain from condition self-management technology do not have the digital skills to benefit,” the SMF said. “If personal technologies, such as wearables or smart home devices become a primary delivery channel for improving health outcomes, there is a significant risk that only those who can afford the latest devices are able to benefit.”