Baby Boomers need mobile health tools just as much as 'digital natives'

Tools

Looking back on 2015, one trend I've noticed is what a good fit digital health is for Millennials and Gen Xers. However, I haven't seen as much hype for use by Baby Boomers.

Those who make up that demographic, myself included, didn't grow up with PCs and smartphones; we are not "digital natives." But as this very large generation ages, the industry should look to digital tools to help people managing chronic conditions and serious health issues. 

That's what researchers at the University of Missouri are doing.

Experts at the school used home care mobile solutions to track potential fall scenarios vital signs, sleep and more. They found the tools to be effective in the care of an aging population.

But currently, in many cases, the capabilities of apps on smartphones and tablets remain out of reach for many senior citizens, especially those dealing with declines in cognition, vision and motor skills--and not just smartphone and PC ignorance. As I mentioned in this column in October, meshing Boomers with the majority of digital tools--such as apps and smartphones with tiny buttons and displays--isn't easy. Such technology must be created with their needs in mind, and should include simple features, like an easy to use interface and bigger screen displays, as well as assurance of data security.

There are, however, facilities that realize the need for devices that can be used by this population. 

One example is, Florida Hospital North Pinellas, where mHealth is used to meet the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services requirements for Chronic Care Management. Arthur Polin, medical director, shared with FierceMobileHealthcare earlier this year how a "huge" percentage of his CCM patients are online daily, using the Internet and smartphones as mHealth tools. There's also the use of "smart home" technology, which taps the Internet of Things. This approach relies on wearables to help prevent stumbles that can lead to serious injury in elderly patients.

Still, fostering mHealth technology among older and chronically ill patients still requires strategic effort by developer and device makers.

That's exactly why the Missouri research is encouraging; it could very well help map a strategic foundation for the Boomer generation to climb fully aboard the digital health wagon. 

I hope innovation that aides an aging population continues in 2016, and becomes a focal point for the industry and for outside developers. - Judy (@JudyMottl and @FierceHealthIT)