Digital health 'not reaching' seniors

Patients over the age of 65 are often the sickest and most expensive to treat--yet despite the advantages health IT holds for them, the number adopting digital health tools remains low, according to a research letter published in the Journal of the Medical Association.

The research is based on the National Health and Aging Trends Study, which asked 4,355 seniors about their use of technology yearly from 2011 to 2014.

Although 76 percent of the respondents used cellphones and 64 percent used computers in 2011, only 16 percent obtained health information online. In addition, far fewer used digital health tools to fill prescriptions (8 percent), contact clinicians (7 percent) and handle insurance claims (5 percent).

The difference between 2011 and 2014 was minimal: Only 21 percent used any digital health tool in 2011, while 25 percent reported doing so three years later.

More seniors used digital health technologies to obtain health information, contact clinicians and fill prescriptions than for handling insurance.

Just 1.1 percent went online for all four functions in 2011, growing to just 1.8 percent in 2014. While 14 percent increased the number of modalities they used, 10 percent decreased their use.

“Digital health is not reaching most seniors and is associated with socioeconomic disparities, raising concern about its ability to improve quality, cost and safety of their health care,” the authors wrote

To learn more:
- here's the abstract