Study: More training needed to get elderly using mHealth tools

Weak computer skills, poorly designed user interfaces and the lack of a compelling reason to use mHealth tools are prime reasons the elderly are not embracing mobile healthcare technologies, reveals a new University of Waterloo (ON, Canada) study.

"With training, adults aged 50 and over can be capable and interested in using mHealth applications their medication management. However, in order to adopt such technology, they must find a need that their current medication management system cannot fulfill," authors of the report, "Evaluating User Perceptions of Mobile Medication Management Applications With Older Adults: A Usability Study," write.

As a FierceMobileHealthcare recently noted, a recent global study released by the United Nations reported that in less than 10 years the number of people aged 60 years or over in the world will reach one billion and double to two billion by 2050, accounting for 22 percent of the global population. 

That represents a huge marketplace for mobile healthcare vendors and services providers. The emerging mobile healthcare tech also presents big benefits for the elderly population. For example, wireless monitoring of an elderly patient's mobility following surgery allows for early intervention of potential setbacks and improved process of care.

But getting the elderly to use mobile health tools won't be as easy as getting the younger demographic onboard, notes the report, which focused on usability and usefulness of existing medical management applications for first-time users over the age of 50 and investigates the barriers they face.

The report reveals elderly users often find using mobile tools difficult and frustrating due to UI designs that can be confusing. Such feedback, notes the report, illustrates the benefit of using 'linear navigation and clear wording' in designing tools for the elderly user. "Interface diversity and multimodal reminder methods should be considered to increase usability for older adults," states the report.

An example of a multimodal reminder is a smartphone app that helps simplify the dosing regimen, provides plain language drug information, speaks with an electronic pill box capable of tracking when drugs are taken and uses the pillbox to provide a reminder for missed doses, explained Kelly Grindrod, an author of the report and an assistant professor at the school of pharmacy at the University of Waterloo.

"For the multimodal pillbox, the idea here is that people are non-adherent for many reasons. They may simply forget a dose but they may also be struggling to follow a complex dosing schedule or need more information before they are willing to take a new medication," she told FierceMobileHealthcare.

For more information:
- download the study here

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