Digital health use has been on the rise for some time. And there’s no denying COVID-19 accelerated it. Telehealth has surged since pre-pandemic levels, digital data tools proved essential for coordinating high-quality care during the crisis, and AI continues to play a critical part in helping providers handle the information firehose.
But even as recent research suggests the adoption of digital health tools is increasing across generations, those aging into Medicare are often cast as technologically illiterate or abstracted from the conversation altogether. This unfortunate trend not only marginalizes aging people from discussions within healthtech innovation, but deepens health inequities as they aren't presented with tech-forward options for understanding and navigating their care.
With more than 10,000 people turning 65 every day in the U.S., it’s crucial to understand existing misconceptions regarding how aging adults can — and currently — leverage healthtech to manage care.
Myth 1: Digital health can’t help aging people with transitions of care
The truth: Everyone can benefit from digital health during transitions of care. And for aging populations, this is especially true when transitioning from hospital to home.
Aging adults are particularly susceptible to critical safety events when moving from a healthcare setting to a home-care situation. In fact, within 30 days of leaving a hospital, nearly one-fifth of aging adults are readmitted — often with a more acute medical problem unrelated to their original condition.
Integrating digital health throughout these transitions can provide better continuity by giving patients consistent information about crucial aspects of care, like medication adherence and symptom management. Intelligent platforms can also extend care teams by automating routine tasks like follow-up calls and check-ins, meaning fewer overlooked patient concerns when providers get overwhelmed.
Healthtech has the potential to help mitigate readmissions — which can, in turn, save costs for payors and providers, reduce harmful events, and yield more satisfying patient experiences.
Myth 2: Aging adults aren’t open to using text messaging during care experiences
The truth: A 2018 study by AARP found that 86% of people ages 50 and over text consistently. And, in a 2020 survey conducted by the same organization, over half of people ages 50 and above say they would “prefer to have their health care needs managed by a mix of medical staff and healthcare technology.”
On the other hand, aging patients are still on the fence when it comes to using portals. More than half of them don’t use a patient-facing app, even if it’s offered by their provider. But that doesn’t appear to have anything to do with an aversion to smart technology. People of all ages shy away from downloading separate apps to manage care.
That’s why clinical workflow automation platforms like Memora Health use SMS to help patients navigate their care journeys. In daily life, 98% of texts are successfully opened, 90% of which are read within the first three seconds. Meeting people where they are through technology they use — no matter their age — is crucial for delivering high-quality, simplified care for all.
Myth 3: Aging populations don’t explore payor options digitally
The truth: People aging into Medicare leverage digital technology to evaluate and select health plans. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) publishes Star Ratings annually to measure the quality of — and determine reimbursements for — Medicare Advantage and Prescription Drug Plans. And Medicare’s webpages that discuss covered services generate over 15 million views each year.
As part of this program, payors are publicly listed and searchable on Medicare’s Care Compare website. Here, people can view different Medicare Advantage plans, their quality performance rankings, potential drug costs, and offered benefits.
With other Medicare apps like What’s Covered — a tool for helping Medicare beneficiaries learn about health plans — already proving successful, digital healthcare platforms will likely continue to play an important role in helping aging adults understand and select their health coverage.
Myth 4: Healthtech can’t help aging adults navigate care
The truth: The right digital health platforms can assist aging adults to navigate complex care journeys.
But, most importantly, aging adults take advantage of these platforms. The number of adults aged 70 and above who completed telehealth visits with their provider in 2020 increased to 21.1% from 4.6% pre-pandemic. And the fact is that baby boomers use digital technology at almost the same rate as millennials and Gen Z.
In some cases, baby boomers even surpass other generations. One 2021 study found 100% of baby boomers researched a doctor online in the past year, whereas ~81% of millennial and Gen Z respondents said the same.
Of course, the elephant in the room is COVID. But regardless of recent patterns, digital healthcare undoubtedly cemented itself as an essential component across the care continuum — and across generations — in the present and the future.
Understanding how patients from different age groups navigate care is crucial as organizations everywhere commit more and more to health equity. And the right digital healthcare platform can help your care teams reach more patients, when and where they need care — all without burdening your providers.
Read more about how digital health platforms can improve access to care across generations.