Tuesday, October 16, 2007

First Look At Reaching Healthcare Seniors

First Look At Reaching Healthcare Seniors

By Liz Boehm (Principal Analyst) Forrester Research

Let's face it, we're not getting any younger -- not individually and not
as a population. Healthcare has always had a penchant for the silver
set, but that focus is only going to get more laser-focused as baby
boomers reluctantly face their golden years. But with more and more talk
about the role of technology in healthcare -- for transferring
information, doing customer service, and even collecting all-the-time
biometrics -- are we headed for a disastrous collision? At Forrester we
wanted to know whether today's seniors and their boomer children are
able to adopt new healthcare technologies, now and as they age.

And since we're sitting on the largest longitudinal database of US
consumer information apart from the US census, we decided to take a stab
at answering that question. It turns out that seniors can use
technology. They just tend to adopt new technologies that let them build
on old behaviors. That said, there are some issues that come along with
aging -- like diminished eyesight and less cognitive agility -- that
mean that firms need to pay attention to design principles that make it
easy for seniors to embrace technology.

Boomers and seniors have different online health habits. Although
seniors are slightly less likely than their younger counterparts to
visit a health-focused Web site, their online health research is more
likely to focus on specific conditions and treatments than on general
interest topics. That makes us wonder if seniors -- and ultimately
boomers -- will be a driving force behind the still emerging
health-specific search engine market. These engines are geared toward
helping consumers sort through the torrents of health content available
online to find the most relevant answers to their questions. It's an
interesting proposition, but with only 7% of US online consumers ever
having used one, the jury's still out on their real value.

Seniors trust their insurers more but like their Web sites less.
Forty-three percent of seniors with supplemental Medicare coverage say
that they trust their health plan's guidance on what care and
medications are right for them -- versus only 30% of non-elderly
commercially insured consumers. But seniors aren't always clear about
the guidance they get from plans, especially online. Twenty-nine percent
of consumers with supplemental Medicare coverage who went to their
plans' Web sites to check claims status or resolve an issue said that
they still phoned the plan for reassurance.

Actually, health plan member portals could use a makeover for members of
all ages -- especially if plans hope to win the battle for consumer
loyalty with financial services firms that are getting a taste of the
healthcare opportunity through HSA administration.

Seniors still don't know about remote monitoring options. Companies like
Intel, Philips, and Honeywell are making significant investments in
solutions that help consumers age in place or manage chronic illness
without constant trips to the doctor's office. But consumers --
especially seniors -- remain woefully ignorant of these solutions.
Healthcare solution providers face a constant battle to try to convince
consumers who need health support to actually want the help enough to
make a purchase or change their lifestyle. This lack of awareness isn't
doing the many vendors in this space any favors. Disease and wellness
management vendors face similar challenges, and so they have to learn to
meet consumers on the channels that they prefer -- not the ones the
vendors want to invest in.

We'll continue to track the evolving landscape of healthcare and aging.
In the meantime, we welcome your input and questions in the form of
inquiries, briefings, and plain old gossip. Here's to your health!


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cyclist2 said...

AARP is not helping matters with their prescription drug program that raised prices and won't let us drop out and get another program They also keep inaccurate records of what we spend ourselves on prescriptions. I reported them to the FL State Attorney..