Patient engagement, particularly through technologies such as patient portals and wearables, has become a hot-button issue. Every savvy healthcare organization has rushed to incorporate these new tactics into their care plans, giving patients more control over their lives and involving them more in the recovery or treatment processes. However, one of the biggest hurdles with patient engagement has been finding a way to engage well with senior citizens. Older individuals can be challenging to achieve good patient engagement with, as they may require more extensive or specialized treatment options and may not be familiar with the technology used in other practices.
However, that doesn’t mean that these individuals don’t care about their health. Quite the opposite, in fact, with over half of surveyed patients 55 or older concerned about the future of their healthcare. Additionally, a disproportionate amount of healthcare capital goes toward senior care. With this very real market niche in mind, it behooves any healthcare organization to offer specialized options and methods to engage with these individuals.
With this in mind, it becomes important to give patients a clear line of communication to contact their caregivers. The method of communication is also important—organizations shouldn’t assume that patients prefer one kind over another. Instead, they should work with them to determine their needs based on health, location, and personal preference, and adjust accordingly. Having a good channel of communication is vital to preclude health issues down the line. Additionally, many of these patients desire the option for same-day visits if they have pressing concerns about their health.
This touches on an important part of senior patient engagement, namely that more personalized options can do a lot of good. Each patient is different, with a myriad of needs that an organization can help meet. Some may require transportation to and from visits, while others may need options to organize extensive medication schedules. The initial visit is perhaps the most important, as it allows carers to get a better sense of how independent these patients are and how potential treatment plans may fit in with their lifestyles. Tailoring surveys to adequately assess patient needs is important at this stage, and to build additional solutions moving forward.
When setting up online information or communications options for senior patients, don’t assume anything about them. Though the stereotype is that this age range prefers to not use technology, making the option available to them is better (not to mention less presumptuous) than forcing them to gain the information another way. In fact, it may very well be that health technology for senior citizens is a market ripe for disruption. In any case, the same rules apply for these patients as any others: keep information easy to find, well organized, and helpful, and invest in a well-designed user interface.
Beyond treatment options, it is also beneficial to inform and encourage good general health behaviors in senior citizens. Touting the value of healthy eating and exercise can make a marked impact on quality of life while also improving overall vitality. Healthcare for anyone should not stop at prescribing medicine—a sentiment which goes double for this age group.
Despite the fact that senior citizens often require more intensive healthcare needs, many organizations are still struggling to adapt their needs to the modern patient engagement environment. However, staying adaptable and creating easy-to-use tools are both solid strategies to keep them active and healthy for a long time.