Healthcare technologies and the seniors: 3 strategies to make it work

Archer Blog - Healthcare technologies and the seniors
There’s a sketch in the American cartoon show Family Guy where the main character Peter tries to get an elderly woman, a grandmother, to use a tablet device. She’s reluctant, mistrustful of the device, and hilarity subsequently ensues. The message is clear, that the elderly and technology mix like oil and water. But when it comes to healthcare tech, we absolutely have to make this relationship work. And here's how.

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One technology in particular really should be being used by the elderly, however, and that’s telehealth. Telehealth allows medical professionals to work with anyone from anywhere, offering the chance to keep the vulnerable and elderly out of facilities with high transmission risks. However, uptake has been slow historically, stunted by many factors beyond geriatric technophobia.

Telehealth goes far beyond using television technology despite what the name might suggest. It includes remote monitoring, real-time interactive consultations, and teleradiology (sending x-rays from one location to another). Specialized search engines are included under the telehealth umbrella too, as are apps and self-diagnosis tools.

The benefits of telehealth for the elderly specifically are tremendous. It reduces financial and logistical constraints on healthcare systems, improves access to care in isolated and rural areas, and improves mental health. Telehealth is good for all concerned, for patients, businesses, and healthcare providers.

3 factors to influence Telehealth app's success

So why has uptake been slow? Legislation and bureaucracy have played their part through the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 did expand the coverage of telehealth as part of the Medicare Advantage plan. This system provides private health care under the auspices of the state Medicare program. The federal Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services also planned to offer "additional telehealth benefits" delivered via telehealth.

However, implementation was snail-paced. Then coronavirus hit and the biggest crisis for healthcare since WWII began to unfold. Healthcare for seniors is now a more acute issue than ever and efforts to help them adopt telehealth are being redoubled. It was fortunate that the aforementioned legislation provided a bedrock to build on.

The reluctance of the elderly to adopt telehealth technology is long documented. Indeed efforts to set seniors to use telehealth is a science unto itself. According to one study conducted in Europe, the elderly will generally only adopt a specific telehealth technology if said technology is perceived to possess three factors.

  1. Perceived usefulness, defined as the degree to which a user believes using telehealth services can improve one's quality of life.
  2. Effort expectancy, i.e., how simple a device is to use, needs to be scored highly.
  3. The technology needs to be seen as socially useful (accepted by society at large).

Naturally, this makes the geriatric uptake of telehealth complicated. Combined with a low-cost threshold (according to the study 10 dollars a month was too expensive for most participants) telehealth faces considerable obstacles to implementation according to the study.

So how should health providers respond? Here're 3 strategies and 3 examples of how they make healthcare solutions successful.

Strategy #1. Do not rely on user input when building remote patient monitoring

Insurance companies are making telehealth services cheaper and including them in their policies as standard. Simplicity is fast becoming the watchword of healthcare providers as they attempt to ensure that their telehealth services meet the effort expectancy required by seniors.

Example from Archer's healthcare app development portfolio:

A good example of how healthcare providers can embrace simplicity is Bicovery, a start-up that provides real-time monitoring of patients with bipolar disorder. The company’s software allows both patients and carers to remain in close contact and can provide machine learning updates that predict and warn about potential mental health episodes. The machine-learning algorithm is looking for patterns in patients' behaviors from the data gathered from any fitness tracker and their smartphone and translates them into the alerts if the trend is changing to negative. The system allows for but does not require any user input, the data is gathered and analyzed automatically.

The same approach could potentially be applied to remote monitoring of the common conditions affecting the elderly like dementia and Alzheimers. This is what healthcare providers need to be doing to ensure the elderly use telehealth:

They need to embrace a system that can successfully be applied to all people and all mental faculties and should not rely heavily on the user's cognitive abilities or self-assessment or their regular input. To provide unbiased data the remote patient monitoring system should be gathering it in the background and without interruptions. 

So if we can see what a custom-built telehealth solution for the elderly should look like but how does that work in practice. Using the example of conditions like dementia and Alzheimers we should look at the area where they are the most acute issues - care homes. Coronavirus has ripped through care homes killing thousands. 

Archer Webinar - How is Digital Health transforming the industry
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Archer Webinar - How is Digital Health transforming the industry

Strategy #2. Use technology to improve the quality of life for the seniors

There is now an acute opportunity and need to create detailed and secure search engine websites designed to find high-quality care facilities. The importance of easy navigation with websites like could not be overestimated: the amount of information to take into account when choosing the right facility is overwhelming. One needs to take into account the medical conditions of the senior as well as their routines and interests to help them maintain their independence for as long as possible and, of course, the location and pricing.

Example from Archer's healthcare app development portfolio:

Homecare.com is a website that goes beyond just being able to search for a care facility. The web app offers a variety of quality control features including content on a variety of important issues in the care home sector like finances and care standards, as well as dedicated support staff and legal assistance.

This broad approach to the care home industry is the method one should adopt as customers will demand more information and greater safeguards after coronavirus exposed the failings of many care homes. They want to feel assured that the facility they choose for their loved ones will keep them safe.

This means that UI/UX design stage of the healthcare app development requires a lot more attention, time and effort to be put in investigating the expectations and creating an engaging user flows for the elderly and for their caregivers as well as for the facilities. Providing tailored information as Homecare.com does will achieve this.

Strategy #3. Elaborate niche solutions to suit specific needs

The proper market research and business analysis can help you build a healthcare software targetted at a smaller group of users, but providing them with a richer functionality to solve their challenges. The strategy of narrowing down the target audience is vastly overlooked by tech vendors as a broader market seems to promise a larger user base and so bigger revenues. But the truth is with any subscription-based service you should always value the loyalty of your customers over their number. And that's when purpose-built custom software falls right into place.

Example from Archer's healthcare app development portfolio:

People seeking care for their elderly relatives may need professional assistance but may not want to place them into a care home given the deadly toll experienced by many such facilities. This is a market niche room2care.com occupies.

The website offers a detailed function that allows a user to find a caregiver than can look after a relative in their own home. The room2care.com engine allows caregivers to provide considerable detail on the form of care they can offer, accommodation, training, etc. Similarly, care seekers can post information about their requirements and travel limits.

The website also has a dedicated app that can easily be used even by the aforementioned grandmother in Family Guy. Apps must be at the forefront of any business person's designs when creating new companies in the care sector. If the apps are simple to use and readily adaptable they will prove properly with elderly users so encourage users to share any app you create.

Ebook - How to build your own Telehealth app
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Ebook - How to build your own Telehealth app

Ingenuity and a willingness to experiment always reflect the attributes of the successful business person, but especially in the coronavirus era. Every cloud has its silver linings and while the pandemic is no doubt horrific, much good will be extractable from the lessons we learn from it. Society has an opportunity to improve geriatric care via telehealth concepts like care engines and it should be seized upon.

Consider how you could train the Family Guy grandmother to use your metaphorical tablet. If you can ensure your solution is simple, intuitive, and easy to use, then it should work outside of the testing lab. Be creative, identify failings in the healthcare market exposed by a coronavirus, and implement a solution a grandmother could use to her benefit.

Contact us at info@archer-soft.com to learn more.

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