3 ways digital IT solutions can help older patients

The latest smartphone healthcare apps are great for millenials, but it’s almost impossible for older and less technologically adept patients to use them to their fullest potential. It’s a problem that can be solved.

One source of the problem is that only 2 percent of patients engage with today’s apps, so developers often create products that target them instead of building apps that could grow the user base. It’s understandable to assume older people “aren’t ready” for the high-tech experience, but that mindset only widens the schism between innovation and technology-based elder care.

Some developers also don’t account for the difference between penetration and proficiency. While touch screens and the Internet enjoy broad penetration, their presence alone does not mean key populations are comfortable with their day-to-day use.

These tendencies can create digital healthcare headaches.

Fortunately, the healthcare system is already moving toward a model that holds healthcare providers economically accountable for patient outcomes, and that trend is accelerating. But to really see the benefits, we need innovative digital health startups to work toward designing scalable solutions that can meet the needs of the most vulnerable patients.

Patients with chronic conditions who are uncomfortable with new technology, for example, may prefer solutions that keep them in touch with doctors and care managers through older technologies. It doesn’t have to be an app. A phone call is more intuitive for an elderly patient, and mere text messages could suffice for Baby Boomers.

Regardless, we need to consider how patients feel comfortable communicating.

How to Develop a New Approach and Improve the Industry

Our increasing population of older Americans presents an unprecedented opportunity to design, develop, test, and distribute technology that could reduce healthcare costs and bolster value-based economic incentives. And when IT helps us better manage patients with chronic diseases and limited health literacy, the whole industry will benefit.

These three ideas for developers will go a long way toward improving healthcare for everyone:

1. Focus on reducing long-term costs. Today’s population pyramid looks more like a church steeple, and that demographic change can carry heavy costs. But by working to improve preventive measures, we can dramatically reduce the long-term costs of chronic illnesses and keep people healthier for longer.

2. Innovate for universal adoption. If a product is intuitive and valuable for people over 65, then the same product is likely to be easy to use for patients of all ages.

3. Make everything transparent. Just as doctors need simple summaries of their patients’ data and alerts when care is required, elderly patients demand greater transparency surrounding their medical records. And by creating new technologies to support patient care, providers will see a fall in time-consuming administrative work, allowing them to focus resources on patient needs.

Digital health startups must innovate for everybody, not just the people who have grown up with smartphones and computers. Targeting older and more vulnerable patients will yield financial savings and improve healthcare overall.

Originally Written for Future Care by HIMSS media.