Health Care Providers often underestimate the technology needs of their senior patients.
Though the generation of 55 and older has witnessed and embraced the most dramatic changes in technology more than any prior generation, their online use and needs are often underestimated. In medicine, especially, health care providers often avoid engaging this demographic with online tools on the assumption they will be unwilling or unable.
Recent studies show a different trend:
- The greatest growth in recent internet use among all age groups was adults 65 and older. 2
- Nearly 64% of seniors over the age of 65 use the internet, and estimates show that that rate will increase to 71% by 2019.1
- 91% of Medicare consumers use email frequently.2
- 77% of seniors owned a cell phone in 2015, with that number increasing every year.2
- 70% of adults between the ages of 50 – 64 and 58% of adults 65+ seek healthcare information online.2
These numbers tell a different story from the inaccurate belief that this group cannot be engaged and informed with similar technology to younger generations. Though the learning curve may be steeper, many seniors are eager to use current technology in an attempt to stay close to children and grandchildren, be informed through social media and online information sources, and enjoy convenient purchasing and delivery.
It would follow then, that this same group is seeking online engagement with their health care provider, as findings from Accenture Research shows: 3
- 67% of Americans ages 64 and older think that accessing their medical information online is very or somewhat important.
- 83% of US seniors think they should have full access to their electronic health record (only 28% percent actually do).
What’s as important to appreciate is the positive impact current technology has on this demographic over other age groups. The very population facilities are afraid to try to engage through technology needs it the most. Online access and mobile engagement can make a meaningful difference in seniors’ health:
- Submitting online medical health records provides seniors the time to reflect carefully on symptoms and past issues and the ability to fill them out with caregivers familiar with their medical history. As a result, the records are more accurate and comprehensive.
- Accessing legible, organized, current medical records and medication lists is critical to this particular group.
- Receiving automated reminders are especially helpful to older adults, who often live alone and may forget to follow instructions for pre-op preparations, prescription refills, follow-up appointments, or care instructions. Messages can also be received by family members and caregivers as an additional assurance of compliance.
With an increasingly older population of patients, facilities will need to not only continue inviting their older patients online, but find small ways to support them in doing so. With a little guidance, printed directions, or online tutorial links, a facility can ensure their patients are connected and engaged in their care.
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- Can Pharma Sites Cure Seniors’ Lack of Trust? eMarketer March 2015. https://www.emarketer.com/Article/Pharma-Sites-Cure-Seniors-Lack-of-Trust/1012183
- Pew Center Research 2013. Internet & American Life Project: http://www.pewinternet.org/2013/01/15/information-triage/
- Accenture Healthcare Consumer Survey. 2012. https://www.accenture.com/us-en/~/media/Accenture/Conversion-Assets/DotCom/Documents/Global/PDF/Industries_11/Accenture-Silver-Surfers-Catching-eHealth-Wave-Infographic