The digital revolution is not just for the young, when it comes to healthcare. According to a survey by Arlington, Va.-based Accenture, at least three-fourths of Medicare recipients access the Internet, at least once a day, for email (91 percent) or to conduct online searches (73 percent) and a third access social media sites, such as Facebook, at least once a week. The survey results are in line with findings of the Pew Internet & American Life Project, which shows Internet use between 2000 and 2012 tripled for those 65 and older and doubled among those 50 to 64 years old.
Many seniors are searching for health information online, an area where seniors’ Internet use surpasses that of 18 to 29 year olds. According to Accenture, 56 percent of Medicare consumers visited their health plan’s website at least once in the past 12 months. Many want online access to their personal health information, and want to research and evaluate health insurance options, accessing their information once enrolled.
The 2013 Accenture Consumer Survey on Patient Engagement surveyed more than 9,000 adult consumers in nine countries, including 1,000 people in the United States. It revealed that:
- Most (67 percent) Americans 65 and older say that accessing their medical information online is very or somewhat important.
- 83 percent of US seniors think that they should have full access to their electronic health records—only 28 percent actually do today.
eHealth options are influencing how seniors want to connect with their healthcare team. Sixty-eight percent of seniors say it is somewhat or very important to request prescription refills electronically, and nearly half (46 percent) can do so today.
Sixty-two percent of seniors believe it is somewhat or very important to be able to book appointments online. Over half (53 percent) say it is important or very important to email with providers.
The digital divide between seniors and the rest of the population is disappearing. Not only are today’s Medicare consumers digitally savvy, 55 to 64 year olds aging into Medicare have even higher digital use rates, and are poised to drive adoption as they age in.
To serve the aging population—today and into tomorrow—Medicare plans must pursue digital channels to influence buying behavior, engagement and satisfaction, the report concludes.
“Just as seniors are turning to the Internet for banking, shopping, entertainment and communications, they also expect to handle certain aspects of their healthcare services online,” said Jill Dailey, managing director of payer strategy, Accenture Health, in a prepared statement. “What this means for providers and health plans is that they’ll need to expand their digital options if they want to attract older patients and help them track and manage their care outside their doctor’s office.”