NOTE: The following is an excerpt from TeleVox’s Healthy World report, “Technology Beyond the Exam Room”, which illustrates that as digital technology becomes increasingly ubiquitous in American culture, a higher prevalence of its usage should be expected within our healthcare system. Download it HERE!
Consumers are currently living in an age revolutionized by digital communication. They are in a constant state of upgrading, as technology seems to update faster than most people can grasp how it’s used. Cell phones are old news within six months and computers are considered out-of-date within a year. Most everyone wants the latest and greatest version of whatever will allow them to stay plugged in, connected and ahead of the game.
Those ages 18–34, known as Generation Y, are typically the most savvy when it comes to being in-the-digital-know. They own and purchase more tablets and tech-advanced cell phones, have the most up-to-date social media pages, and are usually setting the standard for new digital and gaming verbiage in pop culture. Generation X, those ages 35–44, are racing right alongside their younger counterparts. However, instead of mastering the digital social realm, the Gen Xers are focused more on the practical and business functionality of these leading technologies.
Of equal importance is that in this lightning-speed race to the digital top those born in the Baby Boomer era, current senior citizens, can be left in the dust.
When taking into consideration that 85 percent of the U.S. population report wanting to communicate with their healthcare provider through emails, text messages and voicemails, rather than in-person visits, it’s important to remember what age group may need to communicate with their doctors most frequently.
Eighty-one percent of the Baby Boomer population surveyed said they visit a healthcare professional at least once a year, compared with the 78 percent of Gen Yers and 79 percent of Gen Xers reporting a yearly visit. As these Boomers start requiring a doctor’s care more frequently, younger generations must note the importance of educating them on the benefits of being plugged in.
Closing the Age Gap in Communication
Though the Boomer group would prefer a pen and paper over an instant message, and are not likely to follow MTV’s latest on Twitter no one should be quick to think that this generation doesn’t know how to text or log in into Facebook. Most Boomers’ usage of social media and other forms of digital communication is greatly increasing as it allows them the accessibility to connect with family, loved ones, and now their physicians.
The average adult over the age of 55 manages six to eight medications daily. As their pill boxes grow, it becomes difficult to remember when to take each pill, whether to take it with food, if the side effects they are experiencing are normal, and so on. Unfortunately, without the proper between-visit guidance, approximately 50 percent of the 2 billion prescriptions filled each year are not taken correctly. It’s estimated that 125,000 people with treatable diagnoses die each year simply because they do not take their medications as prescribed.
Ongoing follow-ups from physicians, via text message, email or voicemail can ease stress, both for the patient and the patient’s family. As more tech-savvy seniors emerge, they’re learning how to engage their doctors digitally.