Almost 133 million people in the United States — that’s almost half of all adults — have at least one chronic condition. The complicated logistics of managing a chronic condition are likely to affect everyday activities such as sleep and diet. Such challenges are heightened for people aged more than 65 years, many of whom manage three or more conditions, balance a complex mix of medications and work with multiple doctors.
Technology solutions aimed at addressing healthcare issues are on the rise, both in facilities and the home. For older recipients, however, engaging with technology instead of people can be intimidating. Older generations were not raised in the modern technology era and are more comfortable with hands-on, face-to-face medical care. Opting into technology services that replace aspects of the human touch is nuanced, and associated barriers to entry have the potential to affect the quality of care.
When it comes to managing chronic conditions, seniors prefer high-touch interactions. But providers, family members and other stakeholders can leverage technology that supports and even facilitates personalized care without replacing face-to-face communications altogether.
Here’s what high-touch care look like in the age of digital health:
Although many would agree that frequent visits to a doctor facilitate high-touch care, additional options embrace technology without replacing the human element. For instance, many providers and healthcare systems are introducing virtual visits and online coaches. These options use video to offer face-to-face conversations in situations that may not require an in-person visit, such as a check-in after prescribing a new medication.
Older adults, particularly those with a new diagnosis or a complex condition, may require a higher level of education and support than their younger peer groups. This is another area where technology and human touch can work together to provide resources to them. Although initial conversations might be better delivered in person, ongoing support often is required. Pairing technology resources such as online support groups, educational websites and instant messaging with doctors and nurses can help seniors experience a stronger continuation of their initial visit.
High-touch doesn’t necessarily translate to frequent interactions between provider, pharmacist and senior. It means delivering care in a way that resonates best with the person. Take access to medication, for instance. If a senior is living in a home environment but has limited mobility, then the act of calling in a prescription at a local pharmacy may be more complicated than it seems. Medication delivery systems that provide detailed information about dosage and frequency may resonate as a more convenient option. Although not necessarily “human-touch,” personalized care that can adapt to older adults’ needs increases the likelihood of their following a health regimen and improving outcomes.
Tech that supports care versus eliminating interactions
When it comes to caring for people with chronic conditions, hands-on care is a necessity. Customized and engaging care for seniors in particular is even more important to establish an understanding of their diagnosis or condition and adhere to a health plan.
As the healthcare industry continues to embrace technology, being mindful of how tech can facilitate, support and redefine high-touch care — while anticipating how different generations will react to these integrations — will put us in a position to ensure that all consumers stand to benefit.