Patient Care Access News

Seniors Turn to mHealth, Health IT to Enhance Patient Engagement

Over 90% of seniors have some sort of health improvement goal, and many of them want to use health IT and patient engagement to achieve it.

By Sara Heath

Patients aged 65 and older want to be more involved and empowered in their own healthcare, a recent Welltok survey shows.

senior healthcare patient engagement

The Senior Health and Technology Survey, which was conducted via Harris Poll last September, shows that most older adults want to improve their health and want to be involved in making that happen.

Many of their goals involve improving overall health, especially with regard to fitness and weight loss. Over 90 percent of those surveyed reported having some kind of health goal – including weight loss, increasing energy, and improving physique – and about one third of them reported wanting more information on how to achieve these goals.

The trouble is that many seniors aren’t feeling very engaged by the healthcare system.

“These results confirm that seniors, just like any other age group, want to live healthier and longer, but they are not feeling empowered to do so by the healthcare system,” said Michelle Snyder, chief marketing officer for Welltok. “There is a real opportunity to better understand this population at an individual level and drive real change by connecting them with the right guidance, resources and incentives, in the right way.”

This need for engagement takes many forms, including a desire for more technological engagement with healthcare and more assistance understanding their healthcare benefits. A total of 32 percent of respondents stated they were interested in learning more about Medicare and their health insurance benefits.

Even more of the surveyed patients were ready to use health IT and technological patient engagement tools to boost their engagement with their healthcare. More than 80 percent of respondents said technology is an everyday part of their lives, and 56 percent of them said they were willing to use a patient portal or other healthcare platform from their smartphone or computer.

Those findings are in keeping with other recent industry reports.

Earlier this year, researchers from athenaResearch found that patients over the age of 65 are increasingly looking to access patient portals.

“You do hear from time to time from physician practices that are a little hesitant to encourage their patients to use the portal because they’ll say, ‘hey I serve a very old patient mix, and they don’t like to use portals,’” said athenaResearch vice president Josh Gray. “We found that our empirical data really contradicted that point of view.”

Gray, along with athenaResearch’s manager David Clain, found that this is because many people in their early to mid-60s have been utilizing technology for some time as a part of their jobs and their personal lives.

“If you look at patients in their 60s and up to 65, a lot of those patients are still in the workforce. They’ve had iPhones for 10 years since they were in their mid-50s,” Clain explained. “So I think that a lot of those patients are comfortable with using technology, and a patient portal may be a new approach to working with their physicians in a way that they didn’t do before, but they’re comfortable getting online, they’re comfortable using their phones to get on a portal, or using a computer.”

Going forward, the pair predicts that this trend should continue and that more seniors will be interested in using technology to stay involved in their own healthcare.

The results from the Welltok study should help healthcare providers and health IT developers figure out what patient populations need from them. Given the fact that seniors are more interested in, and perhaps are even using, health IT products, healthcare professionals can reshape the way they deliver care to leverage these tools to increase patient engagement and, ultimately, overall health.

“This study’s findings highlight how open seniors are to using technology in healthcare to have more control and information to support their daily activities,” said Steve Ewell, executive director of the Consumer Technology Association Foundation. “The innovations coming to market allow us to better track our health and well-being, which will lead to greater independence and quality of life as we age, while also providing peace of mind to our caregivers and loved ones."


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