There’s been a tremendous amount of conversation about the value of connected health and its benefits, as healthcare providers seek to overcome obstacles the healthcare community is facing.  A growing elderly population and shortage of healthcare professional to deliver care to them – including lack of access to care, especially in rural areas – contribute to the burden placed on the healthcare system.

Older adults (50-80 years old) make up almost 28% of the U.S. population.  But, they account for around half of annual office visits.  Considering this, finding new ways to accommodate the needs of this population group should be a priority for healthcare providers to ensure appropriate care for all patients, while also reducing the burnout rate among physicians.

Connected health services, like telehealth, can help deliver value to providers and patients alike, such as extending access to care regardless of geography.  That includes both PCPs as well as specialists, who can leverage virtual care technologies to see patients remotely, helping to reduce costs and other challenges of travel, making it easier for patients to schedule appointments, and allowing doctors to care for more patients without extending their hours, among other benefits.

Given younger generations have grown up in a digital, connected, mobile world, it’s not surprising that connected health capabilities are a factor in their choice of healthcare providers.  While older adults may not be quite as open to connected health services, recent research shows many patients between 50-80 whose providers do not yet offer them, are interested in telehealth opportunities with their PCPs (48%) or specialists (40%), including mental health professionals (35%).

It’s not surprising that older generations are not as quick as their younger counterparts to embrace technology-based healthcare.  Millennials and GenXers have grown up with the world at their fingertips and use mobile devices and apps, social media, messaging, and video, daily for both personal and professional interactions.

Conversely, older adults tend to exhibit a greater resistance to new technologies and often have a harder time understanding them.  In fact, senior citizens are much less likely to even own a smartphone than younger generations, and they have a very low trust level when it comes to security and privacy of digital interactions.  But, perhaps the greatest impediment is a lingering perception that in-person visits result in higher-quality care, and older patients simply have a higher comfort level with traditional face-to-face interactions.

There is clearly an education gap that may be preventing older patients from accepting new technologies to support their healthcare needs.  The groundwork has been laid, however, as of those patients 50-80 who have experienced virtual visits, 47% say the overall convenience was better than traditional in-office care, and an additional 18% said they are about the same.  But, only 14% say their providers offer telehealth services, while 55% don’t know and 31% say their providers do not.

The call to action for healthcare providers appears to be twofold.  There is a clear demand from both older and younger generations, with a need for increased education to increase the comfort level for older adults.  Providers who are using telehealth services should make their patients aware of them, and should also take steps to ensure their telehealth visits are successful to drive positive results.

To learn more about making connected health solutions available to patients and how to increase participation rates among patients, visit us here.

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