Health may be humanity’s greatest equalizer. It impacts everyone, regardless of age, ability level, or economic status. However, it also affects everyone differently, and digital healthcare still far underserves the entire patient population. For instance, people with disabilities need equal access to medical care and healthcare networks. 

But providing accessible healthcare to everyone requires digital accessibility that ensures open online platforms and portals. It’s time for the healthcare sector to catch up and achieve these goals. It’s also important to remember that digital healthcare solutions must comply with ADA and WCAG guidelines, as penalties for non-compliance can be steep. 

This article provides helpful tips and insights. But first, we address the current state of online health management and why accessibility is an untapped opportunity in the healthcare market

Online Health Management is Largely Inaccessible

How urgent is digital accessibility in healthcare? Its urgency is directly proportional to the massive amount of people with disabilities. Over 61 million people in the U.S. and over 1 billion people worldwide have disabilities, including 46% of people aged 60 and older. These numbers add up to the largest minority group in the world. Moreover, experts project that Americans 65 and older will double from 52 million in 2018 to 95 million by 2060. 

Online healthcare management is still far too challenging for people with disabilities, despite long-standing laws in many countries. Perhaps what’s most frustrating is it doesn’t have to be this way. Other industries manage to make essential online tasks digitally accessible. 

That said, COVID exposed some well-documented failures to serve people with disabilities:

  • Drive-Through Services: Not everyone with a disability has access to or can operate a vehicle.
  • Home COVID Testing: These tests require end-to-end accessibility for those living alone, and the accessible test kit provided in 2021 by the U.S. fell short. The lack of braille, large print, or incomplete electronic instructions exposed inadequate end-to-end product design. 
  • Inadequate Online Graphics: To this day, online COVID hot spots have online graphics inaccessible to many with print disabilities. 

Consider How Different it Could Be

Shopping for an appropriate healthcare plan isn’t that different from shopping for other similar products made accessible by businesses, large and small. The government, education, and other industries have solved many of the same problems. And for all its remaining issues, the U.S. Medicare program does a relatively good job with online accessibility, even though choosing from the various options can be time-consuming.

Managing coverage should be easy, too. Online forms can be made accessible. We know how to design these for handheld devices, laptops, and home computers. Providing a personal dashboard of accessible communications is also quickly achievable with today’s technology. 

Similarly, online prescription instructions are now accessible, though implemented by only a handful of pharmacies. And receiving and paying bills online should no longer be a challenge—though it still almost always is. In short, technology is widely available to make your online environments more accessible. It’s all a matter of priority and commitment, and execution. 

Post-COVID Reality: The Business Opportunity

The hard truth is the healthcare industry continues to fail essential web accessibility most of the time. So why not compete? Why not go the extra mile to make your online services and products accessible?  With the urgent need for digital accessibility, there’s a massive opportunity to gain the loyalty of a critical demographic you simply can’t ignore. 

Health industry failures in digital accessibility also present a powerful business opportunity. Which organizations will capitalize on it first? Will yours be the one to embrace old-fashioned capitalism when we need it most?  

Digital accessibility can elevate your business, but it’s also your best preventative legal strategy. 

Healthcare Market Lawsuits Are Rising: What Can You Do?

Digital accessibility lawsuits are at an all-time high, and no organization is invulnerable to this trend. Nor is it expected to slow down. For example, in 2022, more than 3,000 organizations endured accessibility-related lawsuits for compliance violations. 

The legal precedent favors digital accessibility, resulting in litigation against thousands of organizations—including many in the healthcare sector. Examples include the following cases:

Related fines can be steep and incredibly damaging to smaller organizations with limited resources. So, you want to stay one step ahead by supporting digital accessibility as quickly as possible. 

For example, pay attention to Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act. It forbids discrimination based on numerous categories, including disabilities. In addition, the law requires that healthcare organizations provide accessible digital resources and electronic communications for people with disabilities.

Digital health literacy also directly impacts accessibility, as you’ll learn below. 

How Digital Literacy Relates to Accessible Health Care

Digital literacy is a skill set that enables people to live, learn, and work in a world where digital tech is increasingly vital for communication and information access. Unfortunately, senior citizens and those with low-tech literacy are often intimidated by technology, which naturally impacts patient care. So, what’s the best course of action? 

Educating people helps alleviate the fear of technology. Start by explaining that digital healthcare solutions benefit people with related challenges, which can help senior citizens who live far from their healthcare providers. In addition, motivating factors like remote access, lower risk of contracting contagions, and real-time medical counsel help encourage the desire to learn.

Of course, you have to start somewhere, and the tips below can help. 

5 Tips To Enhance Digital Healthcare & Accessibility

People with disabilities must have better digital access to healthcare. Ethically, it should be a primary objective for any healthcare facility, company, or organization. The tips below will start you off in the right direction. 

1. Stay Mindful of Government Standards

Healthcare website providers often ignore basic rules like web compliance standards (e.g., WCAG).  Make every effort to ensure your website and all other digital assets are accessible to people with disabilities. They’re a critical cross-section of your patient population and deserve equitable access to the right advice and treatments.  

2. Support Assistive Technology

Assistive technology helps people with disabilities perform everyday digital functions like typing, using a mouse, reading what’s on-screen, or operating a touch-screen smartphone. For example, a site with assistive technology helps them schedule appointments, learn about your services, access tests, etc.

3. Provide AAC Devices

Augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) devices enable those with speech-related disabilities to understand and navigate website content. Like assistive technology, ACAC empowers them to complete essential tasks like appointment scheduling and medical services research.  

4. Provide Alternative Content Formatting

Ensure your web content is accessible in a myriad of ways. Examples include alt text for images, video transcripts, closed captioning, and audio descriptions of all videos. 

5. Have People with Disabilities Test Your Digital Assets

What could be a better testing resource than those you want to serve? First, kindly ask people with disabilities to scrub your website and apps (desktop and mobile versions). Then, have them provide a detailed report on accessibility issues they find.

Summary: Digital Healthcare & Beyond

Digital tech is rapidly advancing, making healthcare websites and patient portals increasingly complex. This tech advancement, unfortunately, can hinder efforts to ensure accessible health care. For example, a recent AHIMA Foundation and Knowbility survey shows that people with various disabilities struggle to access digital information. 

But this problem doesn’t just concern access to medical care. It affects all business sectors and geographical locations across the globe. As such, we must all work together to support disability communities everywhere, and elevating digital healthcare is a giant step in the right direction. 

Fortunately, readily available solutions ensure digital accessibility, which not only supports people with disabilities but the broader patient population. Learn how UserWay is your go-to solution for web compliance and digital technologies in healthcare

UserWay: Digital Accessibility For All Business Sectors

UserWay offers AI-powered technologies that ensure all organizations, including those in the healthcare market, support digital accessibility and conform to the ADA, WCAG, and all other related laws. So, don’t hesitate. Healthcare organizations that act now can increase inclusivity for all patients, enhance their business performance and help mitigate future legal complications. 

Contact UserWay to start your accessibility journey today. 

Common FAQs

What’s the Definition of Digital Inequality?

Digital inequality describes the disparity between those with access to digital technology and those without it. This inequality also applies to related gaps in digital literacy. The gulf between these two factors will only widen as digital health technologies rapidly advance—further illustrating the need for digital accessibility in the healthcare sector

What are the Main Barriers to Digital Healthcare Transformation?

Cybersecurity workforce shortages and continued dependence on legacy systems create obstacles to digital transformation in the healthcare market

What are Some Main Advantages of Digital Accessibility?

Digitally accessibility reduces legal compliance risk, broadens your online user base, and gives your organization a competitive advantage. A Gartner report states that improved web inclusivity can elevate TAM (Total Available Market) by 15%  – 46%.