The strong digital engagement trend among Medicare consumers that Accenture has previously reported continues. Today, 68 percent of digital savvy seniors 65 and over—silver surfers—say that technology is “very important” or “somewhat important” to managing their health. This is according to the Accenture 2014 Patient Engagement Survey of more than 10,000 consumers in the United States and nine other countries, including about 350 US seniors.
Health management, not money
The connection between technology and health management is key to understanding silver surfers. Not only do 82 percent of them feel an inherent motivation to actively manage their general health, 36 percent think that new technology has made it easier, and 61 percent want new technology to do this. Most (62 percent) silver surfers say that technology is important for managing their health because it helps them to improve their health or understand conditions or medications. Yet only 7 percent point to cost savings.
Both seniors 65 and older and those under 65 focus on using digital tools for health management. However, this trend is even stronger among silver surfers (62 percent) than among younger people (55 percent.) This trend also applies when comparing older seniors and those emerging into Medicare (55 to 64 years old). Consider these groups’ patterns of electronic medical record (EMR) use:
Accessing outcome-related data. 57 percent of Medicare age seniors use their EMRs to access outcome-related health data compared to 46 percent of seniors aging into Medicare.
Accessing billing data. 27 percent of seniors aging into Medicare use their EMR data to access billing information compared to 20 percent of Medicare age seniors.
Toward better health
Silver surfers use of digital to manage their health makes them an attractive group for Medicare plans. There is a striking correlation between silver surfers’ use of technology in health management and the likelihood that they will perform health management activities. Simply put, higher overall health management activity can translate into healthier behaviors, and in some cases, healthier people.
For example, of the seniors who consider technology to be “very important” in health management, 75 percent monitored their weight, 50 percent monitored their cholesterol and 41 percent tracked their physical activity last year. These rates are much higher than those of seniors who say they see no value in using technology to manage their health.
More of the same ahead
Not only are silver surfers willing to incorporate ehealth channel like into their lives, they expect that technology will play an even bigger role in their health in the future. Many are even willing to pay for technology tools that provide insights into their health.
Opportunity for outcomes
By understanding silver surfers’ ehealth behaviors, health plans can identify opportunities to encourage healthy activities—and healthy outcomes. This is important for health plans participating in accountable care organization models that must build care plans to generate the right outcomes to protect against the downside risks of quality or value-based payment models. As plans look to engage silver surfers, they must remember that ehealth is a complement, not a substitute for the human touch in healthcare.