Seniors and health IT: A match made to avoid heaven! – All Things HIT

Dec 30 2011   6:46PM GMT

Seniors and health IT: A match made to avoid heaven!

Posted by:

Patrick Howard

Senior care,

telemedicine,

eRx,

Senior Citizens League,

Cost of care

Last week I wrote a ceremonious, empathetic, ???Christmassy??? blog about being reminded how effective ???no tech??? methods can be in achieving better medical outcomes, increasing medication compliance, and so on and so forth. Well after reviewing the results of a most recent study by the Senior Citizens League, one of the largest nonpartisan seniors advocacy groups in the USA, based in Alexandria, Virginia, I???m back on the health IT soapbox. 

The study reviewed how the financial concerns of senior citizens affect their behavior when it comes to visiting the physician???s office, taking their medications and approaching their end of life care.  The study surveyed 1200 seniors and revealed the following:

  • 50% of respondents postponed filling prescriptions
  • 61% postponed visits to dentists, opticians, or hearing specialists
  • 44% postponed filling prescriptions or chose to take a lower dosage than prescribed
  • 44% are spending at least $300 per month on medical expenses
  • 10% are spending at least $750 per month

I admit, the results weren???t that surprising.  Anytime a person has less money and/or no health insurance, they will put off visiting the doctor, dentist, and even not-comply with their medication.  What was astounding to me, however, was the metrics???s large percentages and the high out-of-pocket monthly cost (points four and five above).  After reviewing the results, I couldn???t help but think about solutions that, not surprisingly, were in the health IT realm!  How can e-prescribing systems with a generic pricing default reduce the cost of the prescription? How can a clinical decision support systems be used for prevention, possibly eliminating that office visit and/or prescription?  I thought about how we can use telehealth appointments, in lieu of physical office visits, and hence increasing visit compliance, as this would reduce their costs and is more convenient, especially for those in rural communities.  Seniors wouldn???t have to get dressed, get driven, and spend valuable gas dollars visiting the doctor office.  

While I know this is utopian, our seniors definitely deserve these impactful technologies, especially towards the end of life.  The costs associated with care and the mere inconvenience of an office visit during the time when a person is the least mobile seems inhumane when these barrier-breaking technologies exist. Although there are some ???no tech??? solutions that could address theses concerns, such as lowering prices, this seem less likely than implementing the technologies. Yes, health care IT and seniors can truly be a match made to avoid heaven.  

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Seniors are not as averse to technology as we often believe. They are connecting with their grandkids on Facebook and using technology to stay in touch with family. This is something that kids and grandkids can encourage. Using technology with them can help them become comfortable with using that same technology to help maintain their health.

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