What it takes to make patients mHealth literate

By Eric Wicklund
07:52 AM

The general consensus that older Americans aren't comfortable with new technology means that many are not accessing the Internet for health information or using electronic health records.

This low health literacy rate, according to a study from the University of Michigan, might also demonstrate that seniors aren't ready to reap the benefits of digital health.

At the mHealth Summit 2014, in fact, there will be no shortage of solutions or sessions focused on the senior market. But if they're not looking up health issues on the Internet or accessing their records, just what are they doing?

They're calling their doctors and nurses, showing up at the clinic or doctor's office or even the hospital, or perhaps they're just waiting around until someone – a family member, a neighbor, a caregiver – notices they need help.

Isn't this, basically, what mHealth is here for?

Seniors represent one of America's largest and fastest growing populations, and one that will continue to strain the nation's healthcare resources. Consequently, this represents the biggest opportunity for mHealth, which would conceivably connect them to the people and services they need at the point of care.

So when a study reaches the conclusion that seniors aren't using digital health tools, this should make the mHealth world sit up and take notice. It's been well documented that the younger generations are comfortable using technology to the point that they're pushing their caregivers to do the same thing.

With seniors, the opposite is true – or it should be. Providers have to become advocates.

The problem isn't access. It's education, and motivation. A doctor or nurse who helps a senior become comfortable with mHealth technology helps to cut down those extra phone calls and unnecessary medical appointments, improves the lines of communication and perhaps helps that senior become a bit more proactive about health management.

All the technology in the world won't make a difference if seniors are afraid to use it.


The mHealth Summit 2014 runs from Dec. 7-11 at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center just outside Washington, D.C. Register here.