Older adults are adopting digital health tools at a higher rate than ever before. This adoption has considerable potential to support these individuals in accessing healthcare, helping them maintain their autonomy and independence as they age, as well as promoting their health and well-being.
The adoption of digital tools for those 65 and older has grown considerably since the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, 75% of adults 65 and older are internet users, up from just 19% in 2000, and more than half of people 65 and older (61%) are now smartphone owners, according to the Pew Research Center.
At Elevance Health, we are seeing an increasing acceptance of virtual care and technology by older adults to help manage their health.
Older adults are interested in virtual primary care
As digital health technology continues to advance and the healthcare industry evolves, many Americans want the ability to utilize more digital methods when it comes to managing their health. Research conducted by The Harris Poll for Elevance Health revealed that of the adults 65 and older who have used virtual primary care for any healthcare need, 89% have been satisfied with their experience.
In addition, 78% of adults 65 and older agree that virtual primary care can be a great way to increase access to healthcare for people who may otherwise be unable to visit a provider in person. Looking ahead, 40% of adults 65 and older are likely to use virtual primary care in addition to the care they receive from their current health provider in the next five years.
Digitally enabled healthcare tool utilization is growing among Medicare members
At Elevance Health, we see members of our affiliated Medicare health plans adopting technology and finding value in our digital solutions. Through the Sydney Health™ platform, a digital personalized healthcare experience, health plan members have access to benefits information, cost transparency tools, and other resources 24/7 via our mobile application or web browser. With the increased adoption of Sydney Health, more of our affiliated Medicare health plan members have access to healthcare and resources when, where, and, how they need it, positively impacting their whole health.
Affiliated Medicare health plan member registration for Sydney Health has grown significantly over the last few years. In fact, the digital adoption of Sydney Health (App & Web) has grown 104% since 2020. Currently, one million, or 40% of affiliated Medicare health plan members are registered for Sydney Health.
On average, 360,000 Medicare members visit Sydney Health each quarter—a 13.5% increase since last year. In the past year, Medicare members have engaged with Sydney Health most often to look at claims, refill and renew prescriptions through the pharmacy feature, and view their benefits information.
Not only are Medicare members visiting digital tools like Sydney Health to find resources and view their healthcare information, but they are also connecting with healthcare providers through virtual care. We have seen a 23% growth in medical visits and a 33% growth in behavioral visits from 2021 to 2022.
Additionally, we are leveraging exponential technologies like artificial intelligence to enhance the member experience even further. This includes incorporating features like conversational AI to answer member questions within Sydney Health as well as noticing when members may need extra assistance with utilizing their plan benefits. We are also using artificial intelligence to identify health plan members who have gaps in their care and may be more receptive to our outreach. We have seen that this proactive engagement is helping individuals improve their health.
Digital adoption positively impacts older adults' health
As older adults experience the changes and challenges that come with aging, their continued adoption of consumer-centered, digitally enabled healthcare technology can help reduce barriers to care, maintain patient-provider communication, and promote chronic condition management.
Looking ahead, we see greater adoption and engagement with digitally inclined Medicare members, especially those born after 1950. This digital utilization is only expected to increase further as additional members age into Medicare. We are persistently enhancing our digitally enabled healthcare tools to help improve our affiliated Medicare members' healthcare journey and help them lead healthier lives.
Anil Bhatt serves as Elevance Health’s global chief information officer.