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Improving Patient Care for Elderly With Digital Tools

With 40,000+ healthcare apps in the iTunes app store showing only a limited ability to improve patient care, it’s no wonder that elderly patients are dissatisfied with the integration of digital technology in their patient care.

Digital Patient Care ToolsBy the end of 2013, 57% of Americans age 65 and older said they wanted more options to take part in their healthcare using digital tools, according to an online survey that had over 9,000 respondents. Participants in the survey revealed that seniors today engage more actively as partners in their healthcare process, and that they need technology such as mobile apps so they can manage their healthcare remotely and ensure the continuity of patient care.

Seniors were similarly disappointed in the level of access they have to their medical records. Two-thirds of elderly patients claim that they would like access to their records but only 28% say they have it. The majority of the wish list, however, has more to do with communication practices than it does access to information. About 70% of seniors wish they could request prescription refills and schedule appointments online (only 46% currently have electronic Rx refills) and 15% want to be able to schedule appointments using a mobile app. 58% of seniors think establishing email communication with their provider is important, and 42% think the most important implementation of digital tools into healthcare will be the ability to see their doctor virtually (without having to offer a co-pay).

The idea that elderly patients want to incorporate more technology into their patient care may seem counterintuitive, but when you think about the 3.5 million baby boomers who will be turning 65 within the next decade, you might want to consider going against your gut and making way for the digitally savvy senior patient. If today’s seniors are itching for more tech solutions, it’s only natural that the next generation will demand them.

What does this new class of golden techies mean for the future of Medicare? It means there won’t be one unless Medicare officials are ready to take significant steps to establish relevant communication pathways with their customer. If Medicare doesn’t keep up with their patients they might lose a lot—including a lot of money, according to Congress. A proposed “Health Savings Through Technology Act” is currently under review. Check back with General Medicine news for frequent updates on the state of technology integration in Medicare programs.

Tom Prose