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3/27/2012
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Elderly Patients Want Docs To Explain Technology

Older patients aked to use mobile monitoring devices want clinicians to coach them, according to a new survey.

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Four out of 10 Americans between the ages of 65 to 100 who are thinking about using a medical monitoring device said they would prefer that a clinician teach them how to use the technology, according to a recent survey. The poll also showed that 29% said they would like to receive training from friends or family.

The recently published Linkage Technology Survey, Age 65 to 100, relied on responses from 1,789 seniors, and revealed that 41% of respondents owned a PC and 61% owned a cell phone. However, adoption of other technologies lags behind with 33% indicating they have Internet access. Furthermore, only 3% said they own a smart phone, 3% said they own a tablet, and 8% said they have a laptop.

The poll also found that 40% of respondents said they own a blood pressure cuff, 17% said they own a device to monitor diabetes, and just 2% own an electronic pill box.

[ To find out which medical apps doctors and patients are turning to, see 9 Mobile Health Apps Worth A Closer Look. ]

"In the survey nobody was using health monitoring devices that transmit health data to physicians" Laurie Orlov, founder and principal analyst at Aging in Place Technology Watch, told InformationWeek Healthcare . Orlov, whose company was hired by Linkage to conduct the study, noted that in a healthcare system that's becoming increasingly dependent on technology to track consumers health, the number of people using health monitoring devices would grow if the elderly could be trained by doctors in whom they have a high degree of trust.

"The number-one person elderly people want to train them on these technologies is the doctor--the least likely person to train them," Orlov said.

According to Scott Collins, president and CEO of Linkage, a Mason, Ohio-based company that provides consulting and business services to more than 450 retirement communities in 16 states, the survey suggests that it might be wise to get a conversation going between providers and older patients early on.

"An in-depth conversation between the healthcare professional and their patient about the desired health outcomes of the older consumer is a good place to start," Collins told InformationWeek Healthcare.

Another area of concern for seniors, according to the survey, is costs. Respondents, of which 71% said they have an annual income of $25,000 or less, said they are generally unwilling to pay for the technologies mentioned in the survey, regardless of income, but said they might consider adopting the technology if the price was lower than $50 per month.

Orlov said the report confirms the digital divide between the very old and younger people in the use of technology. "... what we need in life is information increasingly provided online to help us with our health and our connections with others. The people who are being cut out of that could be the poor and disadvantaged who are often talked about, but also the old who are not so much talked about..." Orlov said.

The report offers several suggestions to encourage seniors to adopt technology: -- Technology vendors should design more elder-friendly devices, taking into account screen sizes, fonts, menus, audio volume, and apps.

-- Organizations that interact with seniors (such as AARP and Agencies on Aging) should partner with vendors or carriers to demonstrate benefits and dispel false assumptions about high product prices.

-- Because respondents said the primary safety and security technology is a medical alarm, vendors who want to target other types of home safety, security, or health-related technology need to communicate and cooperate, instead of compete with each other. This could lead carriers and other technology resellers to combine technologies such as a medical alarm system, a medication dispensing device, and an activity monitor.

"It will be critical for technology manufacturers to involve the older consumer as early as possible in the development of new technology," Collins said. "This is done all the time with younger cohorts but the over-65 demographic is not engaged nearly as often."

The 2012 InformationWeek Healthcare IT Priorities Survey finds that grabbing federal incentive dollars and meeting pay-for-performance mandates are the top issues facing IT execs. Find out more in the new, all-digital Time To Deliver issue of InformationWeek Healthcare. (Free registration required.)

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