Guest editor Sarianne Gruber (@subtleimpact) scopes the ‘digital divide’ separating those who need health services the most from the patient engagement and other tools they need in this article. The studies are US, but the lessons apply anywhere in the world. This Editor notes that many patient engagement tools are over-designed and over-complicated for users, even if they are fairly competent and frequently use online and mobile. (I entered a ‘pilot’ of a stress reduction program which proved to be anything but–and quitting because it is invasive and the reporting is ludicrously burdensome.)
To developers: Imagine your patient engagement platform being used by a person on the less sophisticated, less educated and disconnected end of the spectrum–or by someone less able due to physical (vision, touch) or cognitive impairment. Put on bad glasses and gloves–and start. Better yet, find a few people and put it in front of them. If we can make the mental shift in developing mobile apps for Africa or India, certainly we can do so for Americans, Britons and Europeans.
What the Studies are Showing
Hallmarked as a solution to improve healthcare quality, cost and safety, studies are showing health technology is up against a “digital divide” when it comes to patient engagement. At the Internet Governance Forum, Pew Research Center’s Lee Rainie, Director of Internet, Science and Technology Research presented the Fact Tank Report discussing the “digital divide” that exists in 2016. The report documents that lower income, less educated, non-white, seniors and rural communities are the least likely to have home internet, home broadband, mobile connectors and smartphones. This summer’s medical publications, the Journal of the American Medical Association and the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine, released studies where demographic and socioeconomic data marked the root causes to limited or no access to digital technology, thus hindering the benefits and improved outcomes it can bring to the neediest and most costly populations. Here are the highlights from each study.
Trends in Seniors’ Use of Digital Health Technology in the United States, 2011-2014, a research letter submitted from Harvard Medical School’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital, appeared in the August 2, 2016, JAMA. Authors, David M. Levine, MD, MA, Stuart Lipsitz, ScD, and Jeffrey A. Linder, MD, MPH,FACP made mention that this study, based on the National Health and Aging Trends survey (NHATS), was exempted from the Partners HealthCare Human Research/IRB Committee. The research team included participates to the longitudinal NHATS survey in 2011. The participants were re-surveyed annually on everyday (nonhealth) and digital health use until 2014. The research team acknowledged that this may be the first nationally representative study to examine trends in the adoption of digital health technology by seniors age 65 years and older who are community-dwelling Medicare beneficiaries.
Here are some the reported statistics from the study: (more…)