Senior Citizens and Digital Health Tools – Results from the Field

Population Health,Mobile,mhealth,Text Messaging,Medication Adherence,Senior Citizens
Recently, the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) published a study focused on the trends relating to the use of technology and digital health care services among Medicare beneficiaries between 2011 and 2014.

The authors conclude that “digital health is not reaching most seniors.” Understandably, this conclusion is getting a lot of attention and reinforcing the notion that seniors are not ready to engage through digital channels.

Given that “the sickest, most expensive and fastest growing segment of the US population are seniors 65 and older,” finding ways to reach this demographic using technology is more critical than ever.

At CareWire, we absolutely agree that the conventional approach to digital health tools, such as apps and patient portals, is not well suited to the senior population. Our data and experience – through tens of thousands of interactions with the senior demographic – indicate that the key to reaching this population is through simple, straightforward digital communications. Our text-first approach to interacting with healthcare consumers focuses on delivering education, instructions and alerts and obtaining real-time feedback, which is an overall extension of CareWire’s goal to consistently and effectively deliver results to healthcare providers. 

CareWire supports over 25,000 healthcare related interactions a day. Of the 1.2 million individuals whom we interact with at CareWire, more than 30 percent are over 65 years of age. We have found that 55 percent of seniors have SMS capable mobile numbers, and when they are asked to engage, less than 6 percent opt-out. The following are further examples of how this population has engaged with the CareWire platform: 

  • Up to 90 percent complete daily mobile health assessments, which are reviewed by telemedicine health-coaches.

  • Up to 75 percent provide reviews of recent care experiences to help healthcare providers achieve quality goals.

  • Up to 24 percent respond to outreach and schedule appointments to maintain their personal health devices.

Moreover, when we ask these seniors to engage, their response occurs within 15 minutes over 50 percent of the time, and this reflects a similar response rate in non-senior populations.

While there is no arguing that the adoption and use of technology by senior citizens is lower than younger demographics, we caution the healthcare decision makers not to rush to the conclusion that seniors cannot be reached via digital health technology.

Consider this recommendation from the JAMA study: “…future innovations should focus on usability, adherence and scalability to improve the reach and effectiveness of digital health for seniors.” In the context of this recommendation, we believe the future is now when considering the role of digital tools like text messaging, which is simple, ubiquitous, immediate and widely accessible, regardless of socioeconomic status or age. When digital tools are coupled with engagement programs that drive results and have a proven track record of success, providers can begin to realize the promise of digital health for their senior citizens.

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