Last weekend, after finishing an intense week of balancing classes and my internship at Itentive, I decided I was in desperate need of some quality couch time and a movie night. I settled down with some snacks and hit play, eager to get lost in the comedy stylings of Robert De Niro in The Intern. In the film, De Niro plays a 70 year old widower who becomes an intern at a startup fashion site. As part of the interview process, he has to submit video resume, in which De Niro playfully tells the interview committee that his niece had to teach him about USB ports before he could make the video. Much to my chagrin, the movie didn’t serve as the distraction I was looking for. Instead, I couldn’t stop thinking about the disparity in technology usage between generations. As someone who grew up around technology all of my life, I have never had the issue like De Niro’s character of finding a USB port, but I know there are plenty of people out there who struggle to even turn their computer on.
With little regard to the technology illiterate or novice, the healthcare industry has been pushing towards full technology immersion. In response to that, there is the “run or get off the tracks” argument that our world is rapidly advancing and that those who don’t use technology need to catch up or be left behind. If I am fully honest with you, I have occasionally felt sympathy for that sentiment (usually after showing my grandfather how to start Microsoft Word for the 20th time), but doesn’t seem fair in the healthcare industry light. Many of these patients that struggle with technology are part of the Silent Generation (people born from the mid-1920s to early-1940s, so 71 years and older), which means that they are frequently ones who need more extensive medical assistance and could benefit from telemedicine and online health resources.
As an industry, we have to show patience and empathy with patients who don’t utilize technology as frequently as we would like them to. We need to step back from behind the computer screen and personal devices to extend a hand of help to those in the Silent Generation. As a society, we need to be more aware of the technology gap and help those who struggle with these rapid changes. The problem isn’t that the silent generation doesn’t want to use this technology, it’s that we live in a world where there is so much technology, so many different apps and products, so many platforms—it all adds up to the possibility of being extremely overwhelming. By assisting those who struggle with technology, we can help them navigate through this constantly changing technological society. We can give them the knowledge they need to be active participants in their health. We can enable these patients to keep better track of their glucose levels or blood pressure by utilizing a healthcare tracking app without the worry of having to carry a piece of paper with them everywhere they go. The Silent Generation can again become healthcare advocates for themselves.
We can help those who struggle with technology by working as a team. A physician can work with family members to help set up telemedicine appointments with a homebound patient who has trouble physically making it into the office for their bi-monthly doctor’s appointment. Patients can be sent home with a detailed explanation and step by step printed instructions for the PatientPortal. Physicians can tell their patients that they will receive a text message from their office reminding them of upcoming appointments or when they need to refill prescriptions. Vendors can create simpler user interfaces with options for larger fonts. Simple solutions such as these can benefit the Silent Generation in many ways. Not only would this help close the technology gap, but it could empower the patients to become more active participants in their healthcare. In today’s busy climate where most of us are already so fluent in technology, taking the time to educate the Silent Generation may be a little time consuming, but at Itentive, we think it is well worth the effort for a healthier population.
- Catherine Gallagher, Spring Intern at Itentive Healthcare Solutions