Despite benefits, seniors least likely to adopt digital health tech: survey

Massage Therapy Canada staff
July 25, 2017
By Massage Therapy Canada staff
In light of the increasingly aging population in Canada and advances in digital technology innovation in health care, a new study commissioned by Telus Health reveals those who would benefit most from health-care innovation are the least likely to adopt it.

According to the survey, Canadians in the baby boomer (age 52+) and greatest generation (age 71+) categories reported they were the most likely to access a health-care provider (78 per cent). However, while 58 per cent in this demographic agreed that digital health tools would help them connect with their health-care provider, this group ranked the lowest to use them (20 per cent). Further, Canadians 52 years and over were 10 per cent less likely than younger generations to agree that digital technology empowers them to take control of their health.

Canada is bracing for a "Silver Tsunami" as the number of seniors now exceeds that of children in the country for the first time ever. Health care, more than any other service, is expected to feel the biggest impact of the population wave. Digital health care technology holds the promise to empower Canadians to be more engaged in their ongoing care and proactively manage their health, particularly, Canada's aging population, Telus said in a statement announcing the new study.

"The silver tsunami we're seeing in Canada tells us that not only is it increasingly important to educate Canadians about the impact technology can have on health outcomes but also to ensure we are maximizing the opportunity to put these digital health tools in place so all patients and their care providers can stay better connected," said Dr. Susan Lea-Makenny, director and senior medical advisor at the INLIV Clinic. "As a doctor and former nurse, I have seen first-hand how digital solutions can empower older Canadians to take control of their own health by gaining valuable and timely information and improve their overall care."

While these findings highlight the need to educate and engage all Canadians on the role of digital health technologies, a supplementary survey of Canadian health-care providers uncovered tremendous support for the role that digital technology plays in staying connected with patients and other health-care providers.

Whether it's to book appointments or send an alert when medications run low, three in four health-care providers report using digital technologies to communicate with patients. Of those health-care providers surveyed, 80 per cent reported using digital technology to communicate with other health-care professionals; and six in 10 hold the belief that this integrated health team interaction improves patients' overall wellness.

With 89 per cent of health-care professionals agreeing that accessible, secure information sharing platforms between individuals and health-care professionals would improve patient outcomes, these results demonstrate the need for further education for Canadians – especially those 52 years and above – on the important role digital solutions can play.

"Digital life is not just for millennials and GenX anymore – technology helps every generation stay connected for reasons related to health, safety and general companionship," said Paul Lepage, president, Telus Health.

"All Canadians have a role to play when it comes to managing and sharing health information for ourselves, our partners or as caregivers to children and aging relatives. Today, it's increasingly important that all Canadians – especially older generations – speak to their doctors about how to incorporate technology into their care and improve their health outcomes."

More from the Telus Health Digital Life survey
Eighty-seven per cent of Canadians agree that accessible, secure information-sharing between individuals and health-care professionals would have a positive impact on the health of Canadians.

Nearly seven in 10 (68 per cent) Ontarians agree that digital technology helps them connect with their health-care provider, which is significantly greater than those in Atlantic Canada (54 per cent) and Quebec (57 per cent).

Nearly two in three Canadian men (65 per cent) agree that digital technology plays an important role in managing their health, versus 58 per cent of women.

Canadians 52 year and over report being more connected to their health-care providers than their romantic partners.

Nine in ten Canadians state that technology that enables their independence and ensures safety and security is important.

Ninety-four per cent of Canadians agree that EMRs allow doctors or specialists to provide improved quality of care to patients, however nearly one in two are unsure if their family doctor uses an electronic medical record.

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