Posted: 15 Aug. 2019 6 min. read

Three ways health care organizations can help boomers plug into virtual health

By Felix Matthews, MD, MBA, managing director, and Chris Shudes, principal, Deloitte Consulting LLP

Although the baby boomer generation didn’t grow up with smartphones, personal computers, or social media, many boomers want technology to play a role in many of their interactions. Health care organizations that are able to ensure that their older customers are connected to virtual health could set themselves apart from competitors, reduce health care costs, improve clinical outcomes, increase patient engagement, and expand access to care.

By 2030, one out of every five people will be 65 or older. Most leading-edge baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1955) have already aged into the Medicare program. Trailing-edge boomers (born between 1956 and 1964) represent the next wave of Medicare enrollees at an estimated rate of 10,000 age-ins per day over the next 10 years.1

Boomers graph

Despite not growing up in a connected era, many boomers have integrated technology into their lives. More than 70 percent of all baby boomers are on social media, and more than 90 percent of them use technology to pay bills, make financial transactions, and to stay in touch with family and friends.2 The youngest boomers were still in their 20s when they got their first AOL email address. In terms of health, nearly 50 percent of boomers use technology to fill prescriptions, and a quarter of them use it to measure fitness and health-improvement goals, according to the 2018 Deloitte Survey of US Health Care Consumers.3

Here are three strategies health care organizations should consider to help connect baby boomers and other older adults to their digital offerings:

1. Invest in self-service technologies to enable at-home care: According to the 2018 Deloitte Survey of US Health Care Consumers, baby boomers tend to be more active and health conscious than prior generations. They are more likely to choose to age in the homes and communities they’ve lived in for years rather than move to a retirement community.4 Health care organizations that offer effective in-home virtual health solutions could appeal to this population and help them accomplish that goal. Self-service technologies can also help health organizations more effectively manage costs by improving access to care and ensuring that the most appropriate services are provided in the most appropriate setting. Not only can it be more cost effective to provide care directly in the patient’s home, but the convenience also tends to boost overall patient satisfaction and engagement.

Health care organizations should consider the following strategies to make it easier for boomers, and other generations, to stay in their homes as they age:

  • Build on existing consumer technologies: Incorporating existing consumer technologies (e.g., digital assistants, smart watches, tablet computers) into virtual health solutions could help keep costs low for consumers. This can be important for retirees who might be on a fixed income, and all consumers who want user-friendly technology. Among baby boomers who use technology for health, 78 percent use digital assistants to receive reminders or alerts about medication, and 36 percent use digital assistants to monitor health, according to the 2018 Deloitte Survey of US Health Care Consumers.5 Voice-activated digital health assistants can set appointment or medication reminders, update caregivers with health information, or even pay health care bills. People who have limited mobility can use this voice-activated technology to turn on lights, play music, or call their caregiver. These devices can also supplement nurses and/or home health workers who make in-home visits. For example, virtual health assistants can talk with patients, gather and assess vital signs, and even use artificial intelligence (AI) to provide 24/7 monitoring.
  • Eliminate access barriers: Virtual health can reduce traditional access barriers and help older patients manage chronic diseases and comorbidities at home. Virtual visits can also be used to help triage services (e.g., specialist, interpreter, and/or pharmacist) to address questions and provide effective care at home rather than in more expensive care settings. Furthermore, virtual visits can be used to expand coverage to after-hours and weekends and can help clinicians devote more time to delivering care rather than traveling between home visits. This can lead to overall gains in operational efficiency. Virtual visits also have the potential to improve health outcomes by reducing hospital readmissions.

Patients who are managing chronic conditions can especially benefit from continuous monitoring and consistent delivery of care that meets them where they are in their care journey.6 While most consumers who have tried virtual visits are satisfied, those who are more impacted by chronic disease show the highest levels of satisfaction.7 Research suggests that baby boomers have a higher disease burden than prior generations, and trailing-edge baby boomers specifically appear to have higher rates of obesity and diabetes when compared to leading-edge boomers.8

  • Deploy remote patient monitoring (RPM): Advanced RPM could help older people live more independently while also reducing costs by helping to prevent future health complications. By sensing and analyzing the patient’s conditions in real time, RPM can alert clinicians to potential health issues. The technology can also record and document the patient’s health between visits.

2. Use technology to help adult children care for their aging parents: While some older adults might not be comfortable with technology, virtual health can still be a useful tool for their adult children who often serve as the primary caregiver. Virtual health solutions can become the connective tissue between adult children and their parents by:

  • Enabling caregivers to more easily participate in care: This is particularly important if the adult children do not live nearby. Making it easier for caregivers to be involved in the care of their parents could help improve patient satisfaction and boost overall health outcomes.
  • Allowing caregivers to track rehabilitation progress: Wearables and smartphone technology can give caregivers the ability to track rehab progress from any location. Caregivers can then intervene with coaching or messages of positive reinforcement.
  • Offering caregivers peace of mind through home monitoring: Real-time feedback from remote home-monitoring solutions can help ensure that loved ones are safe. It also reassures caregivers that clinicians are tracking the health of their family member. Hence, the aging parent is likely to receive appropriate care in an expeditious manner if and when intervention is needed.

3. Clearly communicate how privacy will be guaranteed: Health care organizations should consider data privacy and security implications. According to our consumer survey results, baby boomers have been particularly rattled by credit card scams, breaches at major retailers, and even identity theft. According to AARP, only 18 percent of adults over the age of 50 are “extremely” or “very confident” in their online privacy, while 41 percent are “not very confident” or “not at all confident.”9 As such, the increasing virtualization of health care delivery and associated clinical and financial data could make some boomers apprehensive. To help alleviate these concerns, health care organizations should turn to the financial services industry, which has strong parallels with the health care sector in terms of data generation. The banking industry has long been a leader in safeguarding highly sensitive information.10 Privacy-protection mechanisms that can be adopted for health systems include multifactor authentication, secure chip cards, and blockchain-and biometric-based security.11

By 2030, all members of the baby-boomer generation will be at least 65 years old. To prepare for this demographic shift, health care organizations should consider investing in self-service virtual health technologies that appeal to boomers. This is a generation that is comfortable with technology, particularly as it applies to their health. As the rest of this generation ages into Medicare over the next decade, demand for self-service technologies will likely only increase, and health care organizations that appeal to this growing market can differentiate themselves.

Endnotes
1. https://www2.deloitte.com/us/en/pages/life-sciences-and-health-care/articles/understanding-future-of-medicare-aging-population.html
2. https://www.aarp.org/research/topics/technology/info-2018/technology-use-attitudes.html
3. https://www2.deloitte.com/insights/us/en/industry/health-care/virtual-health-care-consumer-experience-survey.html
4. https://www2.deloitte.com/us/en/pages/life-sciences-and-health-care/articles/understanding-future-of-medicare-aging-population.html
5. https://www2.deloitte.com/insights/us/en/industry/health-care/virtual-health-care-consumer-experience-survey.html
6. https://www.health careitnews.com/news/silver-tsunami-its-way-telehealth-ready-its-moment
7. Deloitte Center for Health Solutions 2018 Survey of US Consumers
8. https://www2.deloitte.com/us/en/pages/life-sciences-and-health-care/articles/understanding-future-of-medicare-aging-population.html
9. Anderson, G. Oscar. Getting Connected: Older Americans Embrace Technology to Enhance Their Lives. Washington, DC: AARP Research, December 2017. https://doi.org/10.26419/res.00210.001
10. https://hbr.org/2017/06/11-things-the-health-care-sector-must-do-to-improve-cybersecurity
11. https://www2.deloitte.com/us/en/pages/life-sciences-and-health-care/articles/understanding-future-of-medicare-aging-population.html

 

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Felix Matthews, MD, MBA

Felix Matthews, MD, MBA

Managing Director | Deloitte Consulting LLP

Dr. Matthews is a Managing Director and physician leader at Deloitte Consulting LLP. Felix is the National Lead for our Academic Health / Research Leaders practice. He advises his clients on strategie

Chris Shudes

Chris Shudes

Principal

Chris Shudes is a principal in Deloitte Consulting LLP’s Provider practice and the technology leader of Deloitte’s Virtual Health practice, responsible for building out technology platform infrastruct