Don't Underestimate Seniors When It Comes to Health Technology

Experts predict that by 2030, seniors will account for 20 percent of the U.S. population, according to a U.S. News & World Report article.

One important aspect of ensuring quality care for seniors is to make sure they don’t get left behind in the tech revolution. Using digital and mobile technology to connect to and better serve senior patients may not seem like a good idea. After all, older patients are bad with these sorts of things, right? Well, it's time to throw those tired stereotypes out the window, because seniors are already adapting!

According to the Pew Research Center, six out of 10 seniors frequently go online, and a little under half have broadband connections. Additionally, 77 percent have mobile phones, up from 69 percent in 2012. The results split once you factor in age, though. Younger, more educated seniors have more access, while older and less educated seniors rarely use the internet.

Challenges Adapting to Health Tech

Seniors do face unique challenges when adapting to new technology. Some have physical disabilities that make it difficult for them to read and do fine-motor activities like using a mouse and typing. Even while tech use has increased, many still struggle with the learning curve of new devices and applications. These challenges, coupled with a lingering skepticism about the the need for technology, continue to put a large number of seniors off.

Despite this, Pew reports once seniors overcome the hurdles, technology becomes an essential part of their lives. Seventy-one percent of adults who use the internet do so daily. Even better, an astounding 94 percent of them agree that the internet makes finding information much easier.

Once seniors overcome the hurdles, technology becomes an essential part of their lives.

--From "Older Adults and Technology Use," Pew Report

As more tech-savvy seniors enter the later stages of healthcare, it’s important that health care providers know how to digitally empower them. Health technology options should be customized with seniors in mind. The apps and websites should be easy to access and available on the platforms commonly used by seniors — email, e-readers and the Internet. The tech should be efficient and actually improve quality of life. 

Yep, Apps for Seniors

When it comes to apps, some seniors may take more time understanding how they work, app-use is achievable by following a few tried and true practices for teaching senior learners:

  • Be patient
  • Point out and explain the benefits
  • Take small steps
  • Keep it simple

Healthcare apps offer seniors many benefits. For example, some help them manage glucose levels and share health records. Others are great for families and care providers, as they provide video conferencing and geolocation abilities.

Patient Portal, The Gateway Technology

A patient portal is the tech offering an independent practice could use as a launch pad with senior patients. A 2015 study revealed that senior patients are very receptive to accessing their basic medical information online. Seniors even tended to use their accounts just as much as younger patients. Some even exceeded all quotas, racking up almost 40 visits a year.

Senior patients are very receptive to accessing their medical records online.

One way healthcare providers can engage with their senior clientele is to teach them just how useful their patient portal is. A good portal should be easy to navigate and allow patients to check their records, request refills and contact their doctors. By walking seniors through the process, providers will not only build a bond with their customers — they’ll also have the reassurance of knowing their most vulnerable population can contact them at any time.

Throughout the whole process, the most important thing to remember is not to underestimate how much seniors are willing to learn. Give them a chance, and they’ll surprise you – and maybe themselves – with the results.

About the Author

Kayla Matthews is an HIT journalist and blogger who writes about applications for big data and new technologies in the modern world. Her work has been featured on...

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