How Mobile Healthcare Can Help Keep an Aging Population at Home

With 10,000 baby boomers turning 65 each day, there is a growing proportion of elderly people in the U.S. Many members of the aging population want to stay in their homes as long as possible to prevent or delay long-term care, and mobile healthcare and effective communication can help them achieve that goal.

Allison Hart, Director of the Healthy World Initiative at TeleVox, a patient engagement communications provider, says mobile healthcare has a huge potential to keep older Americans in their homes, but proper communication and patient outreach is necessary to ensure mobile healthcare's success. Along with providing patients with medical devices to be used in their homes, "healthcare providers need to connect with, engage and activate patients between office visits," she says. 

Without effective communication, Ms. Hart says, there is a disconnect in the use of mobile healthcare. Many times older patients "receive medical devices to use at home, but they are not using them as recommended," she says. "Communication helps close the loop to make sure everyone is doing what they are supposed to do."

The key to successful patient outreach is using "technology that doesn't alienate the older population," says Ms. Hart. Although many older Americans have been late adopters of technology, many use the Internet and cell phones now, with the vast majority (82 percent) of the baby boomers saying they would be open to receiving text messages, emails and voicemails from their healthcare providers between visits.

"The elderly population wants communication to be tailored to them based on their preferences, not a blast communication," says Ms. Hart. For example, some people like to receive things with permanency, such as discharge instructions via email to allow them to easily access the information at a later date. However, they may want to receive other communications such as appointment reminders through a phone call. By allowing patients to choose the types of communication they receive, the outreach is more effective.

Many healthcare providers already use automated phone calls to give appointment reminders to patients, but those calls need to be "taken to the next level" such as to remind patients to get preventive tests, says Ms. Hart.

Effective communication and patient outreach can also be a valuable tool for providers to use for population health management, and Ochsner Health System in Jefferson, La., provides an example of how it can assist.

Ochsner was looking for a way to make sure men over 50 were receiving colon cancer screenings, and the health system was having little success reaching out to this population. TeleVox sent an automated phone call to over 3,100 of Ochsner's patients who needed to be screened. The patients were able to interact with the phone call, and they had the option of being transferred to schedule the cancer screening at that time. "This method was effective in breaking through to this population," says Ms. Hart. The outreach was very successful, as it allowed for the early treatment of pre-cancerous polyps in 145 patients.  

Along with assisting in population health management, using the right type of communication can also create a connection between the provider and the patient. "Many patients who have received our personalized communication services have said it makes them feel more valued and like their providers really care about them," says Ms. Hart. 

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