An untapped market for digital health innovation exists among seniors hoping to age in place

A new report from Rock Health says there is a “unique window of opportunity” for digital health innovation to support seniors as they age.
By Mallory Hackett
12:35 pm
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As older adults continue to adopt technology, digital health technologies will play an important role in helping them age in place, a new report from Rock Health predicts.

The report notes that although 77% of people over the age of 55 say they want to age in place, only 50% believe they will.

Barriers to aging in place can include home maintenance, lack of transportation and mobility, inadequate preparation, and age-related accessibility.

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“To meet these new challenges – and opportunities – we need transformative innovation in senior care,” the authors wrote in the report. “Digital health is poised to offer critical solutions.”

Despite cultural stereotypes about baby boomers, many actually do utilize technology in their day-to-day lives. More than 75% of respondents 55 to 65 years old own smartphones, download and use apps, according to the report.

When it comes to using health-related technology, however, less than 40% of respondents aged 55 to 65 have used a healthcare app. More specifically, while about 60% of respondents in that age group have had a virtual care phone call, less than 30% have used video calls, text messages or picture messages for a virtual care appointment.

“Given that Baby Boomers use apps in non-healthcare contexts and indicate they want to use technology to track health information, we believe that lower adoptions rates may be more due to a lack of healthcare apps designed for and marketed to Baby Boomers than a result of Baby Boomer preferences or reluctance to adopt,” the report said.

Older adults search online health information at nearly the same rate as their younger counterparts, according to the report. In 2019, about 60% of respondents 65 years and younger looked up information online about symptoms, prescriptions and vitamins.

COVID-19 has also played a role in accelerating older adults' desire to age in place, the report says. That acceleration can be attributed to increased use of telemedicine and fears surrounding the safety of nursing homes.

WHY THIS MATTERS

Older adults’ interest in aging in place paired with their growing use of technology presents investors and entrepreneurs with an opportunity for innovation, according to the report.

The authors identified several spaces that offer potential opportunities for digital health developments, including building tools to help seniors select a Medicare Advantage plan, technology targeting loneliness and social isolation, services that address the social determinants of health, devices that connect patients with accessible healthcare, and programs that support caregivers.

THE LARGER TREND

While there is room for new development, the market for digital health technologies targeted at seniors is not devoid of activity.

To target the loneliness and social isolation that many seniors deal with, SCAN Health Plan and Rally Health have teamed up to launch an interactive digital platform for SCAN’s senior members.

Arkos Health, which comprises Curavi Health, CarePointe and U.S. Health Systems, formed earlier this year to deliver virtual-care products and population-health insights for seniors.

Senior- and disability-technology startup K4Connect recently raised $7.7 million to speed up the development and deployment of new connected technologies for older adults.

Healthcare organizations must consider that, although telemedicine is experiencing huge growth, it isn’t suitable for everyone, according to a JAMA study. The study estimated that 38% of the 13 million seniors in the U.S. are not ready for virtual visits, mainly because of inexperience with technology.

ON THE RECORD

“The aging of America presents a unique window of opportunity to support aging in place with digital health technologies,” the authors of the report wrote. “A confluence of factors have coalesced to align incentives across payers, older adults, and their families and caregivers. This has created a unique opportunity for digital health-driven transformation.”

 

Building a Solid Foundation for Transformation

This month we are following the efforts of entrepreneurs, doctors, investors and executives as they build a solid foundation for healthcare to move through the decade.

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