Digital Health Navigators Help Solve Quality Problems

May 30, 2024 · NCQA Communications

We’re excited that the emerging workforce category of Digital Health Navigators (DHN) can help solve quality problems by:

  • Expanding community health workers’ scope to make tech-enabled contributions to community health.
  • Improving digital health literacy in areas where digital health literacy is low.
  • Facilitating virtual care.

NCQA is researching and building ways to help in all three areas.

Enhancing Community Health Workers

DHN encourage patients to overcome barriers to using technology and help them develop the skills they need to use internet-based health care services.

Training community health workers (CHW) as Digital Health Navigators can support state efforts to create more equitable health care.

NCQA’s self-paced CHW educational series can help community health workers make this leap.

Closing a Digital Divide

DHNs can improve another problem: digital health literacy.

That’s a person’s ability to find good health information online and understand it, to use online health care tools effectively.

Digital health literacy is rarer than you might think:

  • Only 12% of adults in the United States have the health literacy skills needed to navigate complex health information in the digital age.
  • It’s hard for people to tell if health information they find online is accurate and reliable.
  • People find it difficult to learn how to use online and phone apps for their health.

Results of inadequate digital health literacy include:

  • Poor judgment and worsening health status. Leads to poor decisions based on misinformation, and worse health outcomes.
  • Low patient engagement. Creates barriers to using digital health tools, limiting patient engagement and successful health management.
  • Lack of patient satisfaction. Prevents informed decision making about treatment options, risks and benefits, potentially leading to dissatisfaction with their care.
  • Privacy and security risks. Increases the risk of data security threats, privacy breaches, and health care-related scams by unintentionally disclosing sensitive information online.

DHN are well positioned to reduce these problems and risks.

Facilitating Virtual Care

Integrating DHN into health care delivery holds great promise because they can work in a variety of settings: hospitals, clinics, community health centers, libraries—even in patients’ homes.

Virtual care offers the convenience and flexibility of being able to access care from any location, using a smartphone, laptop or tablet.

Imagine the combined, compounded flexibility of DHN and virtual care.

The NCQA Virtual Care Accreditation Pilot is testing standards for delivering virtual care. DHN can help organizations satisfy NCQA standards in four areas:

  1. Social Needs Screening. DHN collaborate with health care providers to standardize screening protocols for social determinants of health and identify community resources.
  2. Assessing Digital Health Literacy Resources. DHN can use validated tools to assess a patient’s digital readiness and identify appropriate solutions.
  3. Technological Assistance. DHNs’ support before and during appointments can resolve connectivity issues and boost patient participation.
  4. Health Education Materials. DHNs provide valuable guidance to help patients identify trustworthy health information online. They can also give feedback and provide resources to ensure an organization’s website is intuitive and user friendly.

NCQA Virtual Care Accreditation will follow the pilot program and launch in mid- to late-2024.

DHN are an important bridge between technology and people who receive care. They are flexible and can reach diverse populations in the places where they seek care.


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