Elderly and underserved patient populations are often thought to be difficult to reach. It’s assumed that they have less access to technology, are less tech savvy, and prefer more traditional forms of communication.
Over the past decade, technology penetration and comprehension have actually increased across all consumer demographic segments. It’s no longer correct to assume that an elderly person does not know how to use their smartphone, nor that an individual from an underserved community has limited access to digital tools.
There has been a lot of research published on the topic of technology penetration in healthcare. Many assumptions have been debunked. That’s good news for the healthcare industry at large, which needs to improve engagement with patients across the demographic spectrum.
"Difficult to reach" patient populations don't have access to technology like smartphones.
Reality: Smartphone penetration rates are high across all demographic groups. In the underserved, lower income communities, 26% use smartphones as their primary digital device. And elderly groups in the 80+ age group have tripled smartphone ownership since 2017.
“Difficult to reach” patient populations don’tuse text messaging.
Reality: All patient populations use text messaging to communicate. For elderly populations, messaging has surpassed e-mail as the preferred communication method.
“Difficult to reach” populations prefer traditional (analog) channels for healthcare communication.
Reality: All patient populations want to connect with their healthcare systems digitally. Despite the myth that elderly patients prefer “analog” communications, only 18% prefer direct mail, and that number is shrinking.
All patient populations will engage with their healthcare providers through portals and apps.
Reality: So far, the healthcare industry has struggled to engage all patient populations with portals and apps. Nearly 80% of patients do not use portals regularly. Only 15% of elderly/medicare patients use portals.
"Difficult to reach" patient populations are not interested in advanced, mobile technology that virtualizes the way they get their care.
Reality: Preference for using mobile technology that virtualizes the way patients get their care, like virtual waiting rooms, is strong across all demographics. The quality of the digital engagement experience is critical, with 90% of patients saying they would switch providers based on a poor digital experience.
Mobile technology penetration is increasing rapidly across all demographic segments of society. Almost every person now carries a connected, mini-computer in their pocket. It is incumbent on the healthcare industry to tap into the mobile IT phenomenon, but in ways that make it simple and intuitive. Complex portals, passwords, and redundant, competing proprietary solutions are making the shift to virtual care slow, but demand will continue to increase as patients increasingly rely on their smartphones to interact with businesses and services in all phases of their lives, regardless of age, or zip code, or race, or income status.