Canadians over the age of 52 are the least likely to use digital technology to communicate with health-care professionals, according to a new survey by Telus Health.

The survey found that while 58 per cent of those aged 52 and older agree digital tools would help them connect with their health-care provider, that age group ranked the lowest (20 per cent) in terms of using them. It was also 10 per cent less likely than younger generations to agree that digital technology empowers them to take control of their health.

While the numbers are still low, the trend towards using digital tools among older Canadians is on the rise. “Retirees are becoming more and more technologically adept,” says Dave Wattling, vice-president and chief corporate development officer at Telus Health.

Read: Time for plan sponsors to embrace digital innovations in health care

“What can we do as benefit providers for our retirees? Encourage people to take control over their health. It’s no secret that the older generation . . . are consuming the most and more complex health services and typically bouncing around between appointments with different care providers,” he adds. “These tools can bring that all together, into a package, on a device; probably a tablet as opposed to a phone.”

Across all survey respondents, 87 per cent agree accessible and secure information-sharing between individuals and health-care professionals would have a positive impact on the health of Canadians. Nearly two-thirds (65 per cent) of Canadian men agree digital health plays an important role in managing their health, compared to 58 per cent of women.

For the generations currently making up the workforce, digital tools play a role in improving productivity. “The efficiency of being able to book an appointment with your physician online from your desk, or to do an email exchange, or refill your drug and have it available at a local pharmacy, there are tools that enable that that can and should be encouraged by the employer. It drives massive productivity, wellness and happiness,” says Wattling.

Read: 47% happy to be diagnosed by digital health technology

Among respondents, Ontarians and western Canadians are the most likely to have shared health data with their health-care provider, used online resources to find and compare health-care services and professionals and researched particular health-care topics.

“The silver tsunami we’re seeing in Canada tells us that not only is it increasingly important to educate Canadians about the impact technology can have on health outcomes but also to ensure we are maximizing the opportunity to put these digital health tools in place so all patients and their care providers can stay better connected,” said Dr. Susan Lea-Makenny, director and senior medical advisor at the Calgary-based Inliv clinic, in a news release.

“The ergonomics are changing on these tools so they’re more usable by the elderly,” notes Wattling. “We’ve seen more attention to the ergonomics  of how a senior would interact with a tablet to monitor their chronic condition.

“Once you give the senior this technology, they don’t want to let go of it. They find it a comfort blanket, if you will, that someone is looking after them. They’re taking the readings, they’re being monitored, either by the nurse or even by their family members. And there’s a comfort they take in what they feel is a proactive connection with their care provider.”

Read: Electronic prescribing among digital innovations expected to boost health outcomes

Copyright © 2018 Transcontinental Media G.P. Originally published on benefitscanada.com

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