A research letter published this month in the Journal of the American Medical Association reported that only a small fraction of seniors in the United States use digital health technology. The authors applied statistical analysis to data gleaned from a nationally representative sample of Medicare beneficiaries age 65 and older. In 2011, 16% of seniors obtained health information, 8% filled prescriptions, 7% contacted clinicians, and 5% handled insurance using digital health technology. For comparison, 64% of seniors used computers and 43% used the internet. By 2014, among the respondents who survived and could be reached for follow up, the numbers remained largely constant (with none increasing by more than a few percentage points).
The study thus shows that digital health “is not reaching most seniors” and accordingly is not improving health care quality, cost, and safety as much as possible. “Future innovations,” the authors conclude, “should focus on usability, adherence, and scalability to improve the reach and effectiveness of digital health for seniors.”