Seniors rarely use digital health resources: 5 study findings

Kelly Gooch -

Seniors age 65 and older don't often access health information available to them online, according to a study published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

For the study, researchers from Boston-based Brigham and Women's Hospital looked at trends in use of technology and digital healthcare services among Medicare beneficiaries between 2011 and 2014.

Here are five study findings.

1. Seventy-six percent of seniors surveyed in 2011 used cell phones and 64 percent used computers, while fewer used internet (43 percent) and email and texting (40 percent). In 2011, the mean age of the 7,609 participants was 75 years.

2. Among all 7,609 initial study participants, 16 percent said they went online to obtain health information, 8 percent went online to fill prescriptions, 7 percent used the internet to contact clinicians and 5 percent handled insurance online.

3. In 2011, use of online health resources varied by race and education. Variables associated with less use of any digital health were older age; black, Latino and other race/ethnicity; divorce; and poor health. Variables associated with greater use included college education, higher annual income, taking medications and more comorbidities.

4. The proportion of seniors who used any digital health increased from 21 percent in 2011 to 25 percent in 2014. By 2014, 1,430 participants had died and 1,824 were lost to follow-up, leaving 4,355 seniors.

5. Still, researchers said seniors' overall use of everyday technology was below the general population (approximately 90 percent use of the internet and own cell phones; 60 percent search for health information online).



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