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Healthcare Imperative: Increasing Tech Adoption and Use by Seniors

August 15th, 2023 | 7 min. read

ThoroughCare

ThoroughCare

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Gerontechnology, a discipline dedicated to the design and adoption of new technologies for older people, has been around for many years. However, the need for increasing adoption and use of digital technologies in healthcare is accelerating.

Pressures, shortages, and opportunities for better diagnosis and care are making healthcare tech a vital tool. It will increasingly support a ballooning population of adults over 60 that will grow to nearly 25% of the US population by 2060.

Yet, due to inadequate design and user interface approaches, cultural ageism, and a lack of senior involvement in product design and testing, adoption is slow and use is stilted. Healthcare leaders must better understand and meet the needs of senior adults if they want to shift care delivery, communication, and education to more digital tools.

Gerontechnology adoption is a pressing need

As the senior adult population grows, living longer with more chronic illnesses, healthcare is facing workforce shortages, cost pressures, and a shift in payment for value.

Healthcare providers and payers will need to implement a new level of technology across the continuum of care to address these challenges. From web portals and mobile applications to virtual care and remote patient monitoring, technology will continue to evolve into a mixed care system between physical and digital care and communication.

Improving the adoption and use of technologies by seniors is key to meeting this growing need as resources shrink.

Barriers to senior healthcare technology use

Many research studies have examined the barriers to technology adoption and use by senior adults. An analysis published in a 2023 issue of Technological Forecasting and Social Change points to three major themes: attitudes about technology, technological anxiety, and trust.

This and other studies point to three main types of adoption barriers, including:

  • Benefits: Personal motivations to offset the burden of technology use and change
  • Trust: Concerns over issues with data, privacy, and the creator or brand behind the technology
  • Use: Challenges from interacting with digital technologies

When viewed through these three lenses, technology adoption by seniors is really about establishing a goal to motivate use. The benefits must outweigh the amount of change. 

Seniors need to understand and trust the purpose of the technology and how their personal information is used and shared. Lastly, the physical and cognitive interactions using technology must be easy to understand and navigate.

Adequately addressing each of these takes a thoughtful and specific approach throughout the technology use lifecycle—during introduction and adoption, as well as initial and ongoing use.

Addressing assumptions about aging adults

In addition to these challenges, technology developers and designers must work against age bias perpetuating societal beliefs about aging adults. Ageism comprises stereotypes, prejudice, and discrimination toward a person based on a person’s age. 

Seniors can be viewed as a homogenous group rather than a dynamic population of adults with unique abilities, life experiences, expectations, motivations, and evolving capabilities.

Healthcare organizations should reassess certain beliefs about older people to account for individual needs. Creating personas that outline motivators for adoption, areas requiring greater trust, and essential usage feedback can help establish a valuable foundation for patient engagement.

How to approach healthcare technology for improving senior adoption

The unified theory of acceptance and use of technology (UTAUT) provides a thoughtful approach when developing or purchasing new technologies for seniors.

UTAUT combines the technology acceptance model with the theory of planned behavior. The model assumes that an individual’s behavior and intention to use technology is influenced by several factors, including:

  • The expectation of performance: How the technology is perceived as useful
  • The expectation of effort: How the technology is perceived as simple to use
  • Social influence: How others affect an individual to adopt or use a system
  • Facilitating conditions: What an individual believes about accessing the resources and support to use technology
  • Hedonic motivation: How enjoyable the new technology is considered
  • Price value: The technology’s monetary cost compared to its perceived value and benefits
  • Habit: The change in routines and effort to use the new technology

Explicitly assessing a technology across these seven areas can help challenge personal assumptions and tap into patients' specific motivations.

As the authors of a 2022 study published in Nature concluded, “The environments and contexts in which technology is used also often shift with age and related changes in work, health, and social connections. Furthermore, technology acceptance and use are not solely predicted by age but vary based on numerous factors.

These dynamics point to the need to consider the heterogeneity of abilities and experiences, challenge assumptions characterizing older adults as a uniform group, and address the uncertainties and gaps at the intersection of population aging and technological advancement.”

Tap into crucial influencing factors

The Journal of Medical Internet Research on Aging published a 2022 study where researchers developed the model in Figure 1. It outlines six influencing factors that can help or hinder healthcare technology adoption in senior adults.

These socio-physiological, psychological, and health information needs speak to the motivators and demotivators for senior adults to learn and use new healthcare technologies.

According to the authors, “Population aging has unique implications for how technology-enabled products and services are used — and how they ought to be designed.” However, aligning technology usability with personal motivation requires engaging senior adults in development, testing, and feedback.

Consider asking specific questions when assessing new technology or preparing to engage senior patients in digital care programs. 

  • How will this technology help the patient achieve their personal health goals?
  • What information does the patient need to know to trust our use of this technology?
  • What underlying assumptions does our team have about our older patients? How are these beliefs affecting their use of our technology?
  • How does this technology fit our overall blended care model between physical and digital?
  • How can we best explain this technology's purpose in our patients' care?
  • How does it help us care for them better and not replace us as providers or caregivers?
  • What evaluation tools will we use to ensure that our chosen technology is usable, enjoyable, and functions best for our seniors?
  • How can we include our older adults in the vetting, designing, and implementation of new technology?
  • Are we, or the technology designer, using human-centered design best practices in creating this technology?

Aligning function, purpose, and care through technology 

These example models and questions can support an age-positive approach to technology adoption. Larger clinical and operational teams can also work with patients to address concerns and provide additional resources to empower use. 

How ThoroughCare Can Help

ThoroughCare’s intuitive software platform streamlines clinical workflow to support dynamic, proactive patient engagement. Interactive assessments, evidence-based clinical recommendations, and SMART goal-driven care planning all enable more personalized care. 

ThoroughCare supports comprehensive integration with leading EHRs, health information exchanges, remote devices, and advance care plans while helping providers visualize and interpret patient and operational data through analytics

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