Elaine Goodman, MD, MBA, clinical lead for population health management at Mass General Brigham, explains how patient access and engagement with health technologies, and the ways these technologies are developed, has evolved.
In an update to her 2016 article on the use of health technology among older adults, Elaine Goodman, MD, MBA, clinical lead for population health management at Mass General Brigham, explains how patient access and engagement has changed since then.
How has health care technology evolved in its development, access, and engagement since your 2016 article?
Back when we wrote that article, I think the main thing that we wanted to get across was that seniors, actually, not only could engage with technology, but when they engage with technology, they were the most active and engaged of nearly any age group that we saw. Especially back then, that wasn't the prevailing understanding.
I think that the pandemic has really changed how some people view that since we saw that, especially for our aging populations, things like telehealth became incredibly important during the pandemic and were really highly utilized. So, really, that's what we saw. When we were deploying this digital health solution, other than teenagers, the seniors were actually the most active and engaged in chatting with our care team and doing activities over a digital platform.
With the pandemic, and I think changing realizations about technology and seniors, I do see that things are changing. I think one of the main reasons in the past that seniors were not seen as potentially wanting to interact with technology actually goes back to how the technology was designed. Technology was designed in large part for young people who didn't have accessibility issues, and were maybe intrinsically more interested in technology or just more tech literate. Then we would take those same technologies, hand them to an older person, and then be surprised that it didn't quite serve their needs and they weren't engaging like we thought.
I think if you look at the market right now, there's just an explosion of products out there that are aimed at seniors—many of which are tech-enabled products—that are really taking into consideration things like accessibility. And I think that's just going to move things forward hugely for that age group. I think the other thing for all age groups is just remembering to convey the value of the technology appropriately for your audience. The other thing that we found is the kinds of scripts, if you will, that you would use to explain why a 20-year-old patient might want to use a technology just needed to be very different than those you would use with a 90-year-old for them to truly understand why it might benefit them.