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In the time of HIMSS, how do real seniors benefit from Health IT?

Another convention, apparent consumer progress in using health data. HIMSS (the Las Vegas 40,000 person mega get-together about transforming health through IT) is wrapping up and with it are the press releases. Several surveys hit the streets this past week that could make health tech investment enthusiasts see progress if they forget that investment funds (and end user pilots) may be drying up. For example, the Accenture global survey noted that app and wearable use for managing their health doubled since 2014, from 16% to 33%.  And the 1-liner that Accenture wants you to know? "Research shows patients in the United States want a heavy dose of digital." Well, some of them, maybe.

Online older adults read their online EHRs. To the degree that this Accenture content is viewable, it offers some interesting assertions: "Health technology users age 65-74 are most likely to have turned to their EHRs to manage health." Why is that and what does it mean? The subset that actually uses health technology of any type also looks to the EHR to provide information about test results? Or that those aged 65-74 in the US sample have a higher incidence of health problems than those aged 18-34? Perhaps it is because their doctors have their email addresses and installed EPIC, which spits out test results? And in the WebMD survey, what do they do with portals? "Silents used only a few features, checking labs and ordering prescription refills, while Millennials used a broad range but were most likely to use it to check benefits and coverage." And how is it that the 71+ population is still being referred to in 2016 as the "silent" generation even as they respond to a survey about technology?

Fitness trackers – just give it to them. And readers of the WebMD survey rationalized the results which noted the 'least likely to use wearable fitness trackers' are millennials and seniors.  Millennials say they cost too much, and the so-called silent generation notes that their doctors don’t recommend them. But then, the solution is obvious, says Christina Hoffman, VP Quality and Strategy at Medscape  -- give them free to millennials and have doctors recommend them to seniors. How straightforward.  Hopefully the real seniors, who are not all that silent about their preferences, will appreciate a fitness tracker more in 2016 than 2015.

What does this have to do with health of the oldest? When an organization like Accenture or WebMD issues a press release about a study assertion, you may find it difficult to determine detailed characteristics about the responders, other than the insight that some of them are supposedly 'silent.' Even though Accenture surveyed 2,225 US consumers, how many actually were 65+?  How many were 75+? Overlay that with non-use of the Internet – the Pew survey of who is not online, which describes 39% of the 65+.  Or the fact that, according to Pew records, 50% of the 75+ are not using the Internet?  To what degree has health IT begun to benefit the populations (hint, they’re aged 65+) that are more likely to use health services and generate the greatest level of health-related spending? And what evidence was there at HIMSS that providers or tech vendors are interested in what seniors want, need, or will use?  Sigh. 


Having looked at the Accenture paper link provided, it's a tsunami of positive-sounding generalities without any age or other demographic breakout. After all, the vast majority of people like ice cream and chocolate pudding! It gives you very little clue as to priorities, what people would get out of different types of DH tech and especially readiness--are they ready to use and what ones are they most ready for?

And as to patients seeing their 'EHR'--well, as John Wayne or Buddy Holly would say, 'that'll be the day'. Yeah right, sledding through raw data. Studies like this play well at HIMSS, not to those of us in the market looking for real information. 

Donna Cusano

Telehealth & Telecare Aware


Elders do use the internet, they just don’t know it.  Internet is what brings them their television shows.  Want elders to benefit from the internet there is no need to make them come to the Internet, bring the Internet to them, on their TV.


Channel 1 = My health

Channel 2 = My test results

Channel 3 = Contact a doctor



They can run the remote, and we should be smart enough to give them what they can use on the internet by using the tool they are very skilled with, their TV remote.