As the preference to age in place grows in popularity, the majority of seniors are looking for ways to access health care services from home, and cutting-edge providers already are leveraging improved telehealth and other technologies to achieve cost savings and improve outcomes, new research shows.
More than two in three seniors prefer to use self-care technology to independently manage their health, according to a survey of nearly than 11,000 adults across 10 countries.
Results of the survey — conducted by Accenture, a global management consulting, tech services and outsourcing company — suggest that seniors are increasingly likely to turn to technology when it comes to health care.
“The demand for health care technology is already here. We’re seeing that more and more patients want to be engaged and play an active role in managing their health,” Kaveh Safavi, M.D., J.D., who leads Accenture’s global health business, tells HHCN. “As products and services continue to become available that support independent living – such as telehealth and health-monitoring apps – the demand will only continue to grow for new and improved solutions.”
And offering these at-home solutions has a big benefit for health care providers of all types.
“Through putting more control in the patients’ hands, providers have the opportunity to shift labor needs and reduce costs,” Safavi says.
For example, Accenture has conducted a pilot in Basque Country, Spain, where the company designed and implemented a digital services center that enables doctors and clinicians to use telemedicine to monitor patient progress remotely.
In its first year, the Basque Country program saved $55 million, eliminated 52,000 hospital visits and achieved a 7% cost reduction per patient, Safavi says.
Other at-home tech solutions also present opportunities for providers. While a quarter of seniors are plugged in to electronic health records for managing their health — such as accessing lab results — Accenture estimates this number will grow to 42% in the next five years, as consumer-facing tools become more available.
To increase seniors’ access to health care at home, providers can follow “meaningful use” guidelines set by the U.S. government for electronic health record implementation, Safavi says.
“Beyond this, though, there are opportunities to implement telehealth solutions enabling seniors to consult with a doctor from the comfort of their home,” he says.
For example, 20% of survey respondents want to access technology such as virtual physician consultations. However, less than a third of health care providers offer such capabilities.
Perhaps an easier first step for providers would be to meet the patients where they are: online.
Most seniors (62%) reported that the top reason they use the Internet is to find health information, according to the survey. Additionally, 60% said they are somewhat or very likely to turn to online communities, such as Patient Like Me, for reactions to a doctor’s recommendation before acting on it.
In explaining how providers can use online forums to their advantage, Safavi turns to Google’s recent partnership with the Mayo Clinic, which seeks to provide more accurate and in-depth health information to adults browsing the Internet for health care-related information.
“Innovative solutions like these may be the future of reaching patients in the digital world,” he says.
Written by Emily Study