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Ben Blake

Seniors want technology. Three practical ways to give it to them and improve their engagement.

July 9, 2018

Medical Technology 5 Minute Read

Part 1 of a 3 part series on the truth about seniors and patient engagement technology (5 minute read)

Your mom, my grandmother, maybe your dad? Survey says? They want more consistent engagement with their physicians about their health, and they believe technology will help. A national survey conducted earlier this year canvased more than 1,000 adults age 55+. Of those surveyed, 33% are managing at least one chronic condition. Our beloved senior citizens really zeroed in on using technology to…

  • Talk live or see their physicians on a phone or tablet

  • Access and manage their medical records

  • And send email messages and images

Welcome back to the Systeem Blog where you can find insights for achieving peace with technology by making it work for you. I’m your host and physician practice technologist, Michael Patrick.

Yep, times are a changin’! And before we go any farther, for those of you who would cite studies proving that technology adoption is lower among seniors when compared to “fresher” patient populations, the fact is the tide is turning. Yes, a demand focused survey, like the one noted in this post, is not the same as an adoption focused survey. Nonetheless, as older “technology-uncomfortable” seniors age out and newer tech-savvy seniors age in, adoption has and will continue to rise.

There’s one more piece of senior survey feedback worth sharing. The overwhelming majority of respondents, understandably, don’t want to ride off into a sunset that sets on the front lawn of Shady Acres Nursing Home. They want technology to help them age at home. While I’m not yet a senior citizen, I couldn’t agree more. I too expect more access, engagement, and control of my healthcare in my twilight. And technology is just the ticket to get me there…to get all of us there.

Now, let’s get down to business and consider some practical ways to give seniors technology that meets the needs highlighted from the survey.

1.     Automated Reminders.

Your EHR may be just the ticket for this one. Depending on the care plan your physicians initiate with your patients, you can activate automated reminders for medication, future visits, and alerts for changes in medical records. And this one has an obvious slant on it toward email, because well, they are going to receive the reminders via email. Remember, email is tops on their wish list. But more importantly, they simply want more proactive engagement from their physicians. This is simply a method by which to make it happen.

You can initiate this project with a simple pilot. Recruit a staff member to own the project. Make sure your patient engagement team works together to set project goals (preferably quantitatively measurable), prepare the technology, and to survey a sample of patients for input on content prior to launch. Start small with 1-3 reminder types. Identify a small patient population that is accurately representative of your seniors and go to work. Report back in 90 days and apply your findings for an expansion on your efforts.

2.     Tablet.

Replace your clipboard and paper forms at intake (and patient exit) with a tablet (or provide it as a preferred option with an incentive for using it). Keep it simple with limitations for use to focus only on the necessary task at hand. According to research published by Pew Research Center in February 2018, 60% of people in the US, 50 and older, own a smartphone. If they own a smartphone, they can use a tablet.

Again, a pilot would be the best way to ease this idea into your workflow and their experience. Recruit a staff member to own the pilot project. Task your engagement team to work together to set goals, workflow integration, and technology setup. Then collect preliminary patient feedback by pre-identifying patients on the daily schedule who represent an accurate sample of your senior population. Report back findings after 90 days and apply feedback and lessons learned before a full roll out.

3.     Email.

Ok that’s a small word with a lot of hair on it. It seems we are still reading about HIPAA violations and data breaches in the news, often. Yet, every one of the stories I read are about people in practices and other healthcare organizations who haven’t proactively prepared their teams and technology for secure use and engagement.

There are plenty of secure tools and HIPAA-compliant procedures for engaging patients clinically via email. There are even secure chat and texting platforms available in the marketplace. Email is a top wish-list item for seniors. So, consider making it a priority for you and for them.

Ok, rinse and repeat on the pilot idea used above for implementation of ideas 1 and 2. The only wrinkle to consider is maybe invite your pilot-participating seniors in for a coffee mixer one morning. What a great way to download feedback while giving them something on the top of their wish list…more engagement with you!

Any one of these ideas can be a catalyst for better clinical outcomes and maybe even more revenue. And the good won’t end there. Your team will be investing some personal ownership in the practice as well as their career. It’s a true win-win-win.

That brings us to the conclusion of the first part in this three-part series on the truth about seniors and patient engagement technology… Part two is coming your way soon!

Do you have any “seniors and technology” projects, challenges, other experiences, or questions you’d like to share? If so, hit me up in the comments section or feel free to email me @

Again, I’m Michael Patrick, your physician practice technologist. I trust you are finding value in this new series. Keep on the lookout for part 2 coming your way soon. Until then, like, share and/or comment on this post!

Michael Patrick, President at Systeem

With more than 20 years of technology and technology sales experience, Michael has led Systeem’s operations since day one, connecting our clients with technology, processes and ideas that make their lives easier and happier.

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