Seniors Want Access to Digital Health Tools—Here's How to Deliver Them

In the age of value-based care, technology can be leveraged to enhance patient care quality. When it comes to digital health tools and resources, however, there is one patient group that is often overlooked—older patients. While digital health tools have been shown to help improve access and engagement, biases are leaving these resources out of the hands of older patients.

This is not by choice of older patients, as many would actually prefer digital tools. The 2022 WebPT Patient Experience Study reported that “while some older patients prefer paper printouts, more than 50% of those 45 and older actually prefer digital delivery.” Older adults can access care more easily and achieve better outcomes if we don’t underestimate their ability—and desire—to leverage digital tools in their health. Here’s what to know.

How digital health access affects outcomes

Withholding digital resources from older patients may be stalling their progress. According to the study mentioned above, while 83% of patients who received their exercises digitally reported HEP (home exercise program) success, only 33% of patients reported receiving their HEP in a digital format. Without access to digital tools, older patients are being held back from reaching optimal outcomes.

In the era of value-based care, when tracking outcomes and demonstrating value is more important than ever, providers should allow all patients—of all ages—access to tools that bring value to their care. For example, for older patients with physical limitations that prevent them from in-person visits, digital health solutions can be completely transformative. According to a poll conducted by the Alliance for Physical Therapy Quality and Innovation (APTQI): “Two-thirds of seniors surveyed say they would like the option to access their physical therapists when they are unable to go into the office for an in-person appointment.”

Many physical and occupational therapists are especially skilled at managing age-related issues. For example, therapists can help older patients improve their balance, prevent injuries and falls, recover from injuries, and help them age in place—skills that can be even more impactful when digital tools are used. Text reminders, telehealth, patient portals, and Remote Therapeutic Monitoring are all tools that older patients can benefit from. The APTQI poll mentioned above showed that 3 out of 4 seniors thought that technology would make it easier to access their physician and occupational therapists, track and log pain or symptoms, and get exercise reminders.

Digital tools can also help providers help their patients by improving care plan adherence, encouraging patient retention, and reducing cancellations—all of which also impact health outcomes. Clearly, it’s in both the provider’s and patient’s best interest to fully take advantage of these solutions.

How to improve digital health access for seniors

The recent pandemic shone a light on how important it is that everyone, especially seniors, have access to technology and have the skills necessary to use such tools to support their health goals. When it comes to digital health access for seniors, the best tactic for healthcare providers is simple: always ask, never assume.

According to WebPT’s Patient Experience Report mentioned earlier, “older and less athletic patients often receive significantly less communication between appointments, even though they are equally likely to want to receive it and are most likely to need it.” Asking senior patients about their preferences on the forefront empowers them to choose the form of care that will be most beneficial to them. Having that engagement layer allows the patient and provider to connect and collaborate on how to attain optimal care from the patient's point of view, which is truly patient-centered care.

Providers can make digital platforms easily available to older patients by:

  • asking every patient their preference re: traditional vs digital tools and communication;
  • ensuring front desk staff aren’t skipping over any questions with senior patients;
  • providing assistance with the sign-up processes for any digital tools;
  • offering digital entry to the clinic via online scheduling and intake forms and,
  • automating regular check-ins between appointments.

These initiatives are greatly appreciated by older patients, while also simplifying intake and scheduling for providers. Digital health tools allow providers more opportunities to engage patients in their care without waiting for the next appointment at the clinic—such as sending plan of care updates and tailored health education information directly to a patient’s phones at appropriate intervals. Other initiatives might include emailing patient feedback surveys, automating text and email reminders, and using patient portals to connect with patients. For example, Keet Health, helps providers to monitor patient progress with 50 outcome measures questionnaires that can be delivered directly to patients to complete in the comfort of their own homes.

As digital ‘equity’ became a mainstream topic, we’ve seen increased effort across the industry to improve digital health access for seniors. Many organizations, including AARP, initiated outreach efforts to help educate seniors. While the Older Adults Technology Services (OATS) program was initiated over a decade ago, the tough times and isolation brought on by the pandemic kickstarted campaigns to offer its classes for free across the country — initiated in partnership with AARP to help support seniors. Other efforts, including the Digital Equity act of 2021 were initiated and eventually passed to allow for more funding and support to seniors. We’ve also seen other resources pop up, such as the AGING connected website that helps older adults get “at-home internet and thrive online”.



Technology is an incredible tool that can be used to improve the quality of care for patients of all ages. One of the best things that providers can do to help promote digital access to seniors is to stay aware of advocacy efforts and programs that are available to support these seniors to be able to access the technology in the first place. And, by allowing older patients the opportunity to incorporate digital solutions into their care plan, providers can improve engagement and retention rates, while (most importantly) helping patients to reach optimal outcomes.

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