Tech-savvy seniors will begin to enter the healthcare market in the coming years, so the industry needs to prepare for this new type of aging patient. An estimated 3.5 million US citizens a year are expected to reach 65-years-old through 2023, according to an Accenture study. Internet use from 2000 to 2012 tripled for those 65 and older, and doubled among those 50 to 64-years-old, as documented by the Pew Internet and American Life Project.
A different study found 73 percent of baby boomers and Generation Xers want to age in their own home, and 95 percent don't think today's technology will allow them to do so. Georgetown University's Global Social Enterprise Initiative and Philips surveyed current and future seniors' attitudes on technology, finding most boomers and Gen Xers skeptical of the technology that awaits them as they enter their senior years.
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"Among the people already in their elderly years, they're not technology experts because they didn't grow up with it," said Bill Novelli, a professor at Georgetown's McDonough School of Business. "But as boomers age, they're much more facile with technology."
The technology is getting there, but the overall strategy has a ways to go, Novelli said. The key lies in understanding the aging audience and their specific needs. The technology doesn't end with remote patient monitoring devices. These new seniors want community engagement, and are looking to technology to take them there.
"When people are at home and not connected, social isolation is debilitating," Novelli said. "People want to be connected and feel productive. These are the things technology can help with—interconnectivity and coordination."
The current senior population has limited engagement with healthcare technology. Two-thirds of seniors surveyed by Accenture said access to health information is important, but only 28% have full access to their electronic health records. Almost 60% want to email providers, but only 15% say they currently have that capability.
“Just as seniors are turning to the Internet for banking, shopping, entertainment and communications, they also expect to handle certain aspects of their healthcare services online,” said Jill Dailey, managing director of payer strategy at Accenture Health. “What this means for providers and health plans is that they’ll need to expand their digital options if they want to attract older patients and help them track and manage their care outside their doctor’s office.”
The aging population is experienced with technology and less concerned with privacy than current seniors, Novelli said. They want to use technology to engage and receive access to their care beyond at-home monitoring devices.
“As the digitally engaged senior patient population continues to grow, healthcare systems need to consider the role the Internet can play in making healthcare more convenient for patients of all ages at every touch point,” Dailey said.