We live in a digital age and opportunities within healthcare are increasing, ranging from patient portals to wearable devices. Today's undergraduates are second generation digital natives and are at a critical point of becoming more autonomous in their healthcare interactions. This study aims to understand their experiences of both digital and broader healthcare. This will enable a better understanding of implications for national policy, individual healthcare organisations and further research.
Undergraduates aged 18-21 participated in individual interviews or focus groups. Inductive thematic analysis was undertaken. Negative member checking and feedback on emerging themes from both participants and experts were used to increase the validity of the study.
Twenty-four undergraduates participated in the study, including a high proportion of international students. Thematic analysis revealed 16 themes. Six key themes explored in this paper are: generation gap; impact on healthcare professionals (HCPs); use of technology to replace or enhance HCP interactions; use of technology to support administration/transactional activities; paper vs electronic; and personally held health and fitness data.
This paper highlights recommendations for the undergraduate cohort and wider populations including better articulation of benefits, making digital options more personalised and interactive, and raising awareness of dangerous 'obsessive' behaviour around health and fitness apps. Some of our findings challenge the assumption that this generation will automatically accept digital initiatives, including the importance this cohort continues to place on face-to-face interactions. In response, we offer some suggestions to improve awareness, utilisation and acceptance of digital health.