PCAST report highlights critical need to design and deploy technologies, policies specific to aging Americans

Last week, the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) released a new report with recommendations for the federal government when it comes to advancing policies on telehealth and electronic health records, among other things, to help older Americans live more independent lives.

Mobile health, as we note here every week, has tremendous potential to help aging populations by providing faster and easier access to care and keep costs down. But, as the PCAST report reveals, none of these benefits can be tapped without substantial federal government support, action and commitment.

The support is needed beyond helping developers design great apps or determining better data privacy guidelines. Older generations did not grow up with a smartphone in their hand and are not as tech-savvy as their children.

In fact, the PCAST report notes just 18 percent of older adults feel comfortable learning to use new devices such as smartphones or tablets, and 75 percent need someone to help them learn. More than half need help taking advantage of social network tools.

The good news is, most are willing to learn if given needed support as well as Internet access, which is lacking for many.

"Older adults are receptive to these types of technologies if they are perceived as useful and foster their ability to live independently," the report's authors write.

Other recommendations include:

  • Create a national plan to ensure all older people have broadband Internet access
  • Directing the National Institutes of Health, HHS Agency for Healthcare Research & Quality, National Science Foundation, Veterans Health Administration, Department of Independence, Technology, and Connection in Older Age Defense, and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to support interdisciplinary and translational research including robotics, advanced mobility technologies, communications technology
  • Tasking the Office of Science and Technology Policy to create a one-year Task Force of the National Science and Technology Council that will identify technologies vital to an aging population
  • Directing the Department of Health and Human Services to support a standing private-public council to advise on sector-wide ways to advance technology in the service of improving quality of life for older people

I hope President Obama's staff puts the PCAST report on the top of his flight reading material for the trip back home so he and his administration can take action on a critical task. - Judy (@JudyMottl and @FierceHealthIT)