US seniors want more online, mobile health tools

By Jonah Comstock
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accenture seniorsOlder Americans are using the internet more and more, and they are particularly interested in using online and mobile technology for health-related purposes, according to a new study from Accenture Research.

Accenture surveyed 9,015 adults in nine countries, including 1,470 US seniors 65 over and conducted a separate survey of 200 Medicare consumers. They found that among the Medicare set, most used the internet at least once a day. Ninety-one percent said they use email frequently and 73 percent search the internet frequently. Around 30 percent regularly use Facebook or other social media.

As for accessing health data, Accenture's survey showed seniors were making use of services offered to them and wanted more. A full 67 percent of US seniors said accessing medical information online was very or somewhat important to them. Fifty-six percent of Medicare customers had visited their health plan's website at least once in the past 12 months. And while only 28 percent of seniors reported having full access to their electronic health record, 83 percent wanted access.

Prescription refill services were another area where demand outstripped availability: 68 percent of seniors said the ability to refill prescriptions electronically was somewhat or very important, while just 46 percent reported being able to do so. Booking appointments online was rated important by 62 percent of seniors, while 53 percent said it was important to be able to email with providers.

Seniors were asked to describe the importance of various digital offerings from their doctor or hospital. Forty-six percent said accessing electronic health records and medical history online or via mobile was most important, while 42 percent were more interested in virtual doctor visits without a co-pay. Mobile appointment booking was described as "most important" by 15 percent of seniors.

“Just as seniors are turning to the Internet for banking, shopping, entertainment and communications, they also expect to handle certain aspects of their healthcare services online,” said Jill Dailey, managing director of payer strategy at Accenture Health said in a news release. “What this means for providers and health plans is that they’ll need to expand their digital options if they want to attract older patients and help them track and manage their care outside their doctor’s office.”