Exploring the demographics of healthcare technology

Apps, internet use, and technology, in general, are often thought of as the preserve of the young; “millennials”. It seems as though all thinking, studies, and development cater to those that have grown up in the information age.

\Alongside this, the Department of Health statistics show those using pharmacies the most are Generation X, Baby Boomers and upwards. For women, this is 35–74, but it’s even more concentrated with male users at 55 and over. This represents our core customer base, but there’s then a disconnect when it comes to technology.

Of course, we know that the internet usage of those over 55 is lower than those aged 16–24, but they’re more connected than ever, and it’s only on the rise. Let’s look at how this group is moving into the digital space, and our opportunities to connect them with healthcare technology. This is vital in an ageing group who may soon be unable to access pharmaceutical services physically.

Technology through the ages

Not only are more of the senior generation online than ever before, but the user base is always growing. Just in the last seven years, recent internet usage by retired adults has increased by almost 25% since 2011, including 80% of 65–74-year-olds now being online. Deloitte has found that those over 55 have enjoyed a faster technology adoption rate than any other group over the last five years.

Furthermore, we can identify trends in where time online is spent. Where the US is concerned, the American Association of Retired Persons has found that 42% of those over 50 use technological devices to access health and fitness information; and 32% use them to manage or receive medical care.

Services like Healthera's app are the kinds of tools with which we can strengthen these groups’ healthcare provision, and the appetite is there for it. Smartphone users aged 55–64 spend just over 55 hours per month using apps, and even those over 64 clocks up 42 hours. For both groups, that’s more than an hour a day.

Making space for senior tech users

So we can guess why older generations might be the main users of pharmacies; traditional source of information, a preference for face-to-face interaction etc. But knowing what we now know about this group’s digital connectivity, how do we narrow the gap?

Perhaps based on assumptions and a general dismissal in favour of the younger market, apps and technology services have some catching up to do for this burgeoning older demographic. Factors such as ease of searching, text and icon size, and troubleshooting often don’t consider older people.

Age UK has published a technology review highlighting some of these findings in terms of accessibility. We’re not alone in realising that there’s clearly the interest, with the government calling for a strategy to integrate technology into health and social care.

The benefits of technology in this area of “telecare” and “telehealth” are vast in terms of closing the service gap and championing independent living.