The digital behaviors of seniors are evolving, so what does it mean for practices? Seniors are getting more comfortable online, which brings new opportunities for practices to become a trusted source of healthcare information for this key audience. Join Michael and Scott as they dig into stats about how seniors are more confident online, as well as how to communicate with them in your practice’s digital outreach as a result.
Articles referenced in the show:
- Usability for Seniors: Challenges and Changes, Nielsen Norman Group
- Never too late: Pandemic propels older shoppers online, Associated Press
- Seniors and technology during Covid-19: the latest insights, Ericcson
- Survey shows seniors are embracing technology and telehealth during pandemic, MobiHealthNews
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Announcer: It’s time to think differently about health care, but how do we keep up? The days of yesterday’s medicine are long gone, and we’re left trying to figure out where to go from here. With all the talk about politics and technology, it can be easy to forget that health care is still all about humans, and many of those humans have unbelievable stories to tell. Here, we leave the policy debates to the other guys and focus instead on the people and ideas that are changing the way we address our health. It’s time to navigate the new landscape of healthcare together and hear some amazing stories along the way. Ready for a breath of fresh air? It’s time for your paradigm shift.
Michael: Welcome to the “Paradigm Shift of Healthcare,” and thank you for listening. I’m Michael Roberts here today with my co-host, Scott Zeitzer. This show is focused on the many ways healthcare is changing and how the consumerization of healthcare is affecting practices. We talk about this topic on a regular basis at p3practicemarketing.com, and we’d invite you to be a part of that conversation there. Today, let’s talk about the evolving digital behavior of seniors and what that means for practices.
Scott: Yeah. I want to start out with, first of all, protest. I think that this is you rubbing it in that I’m closing in on 60.
Michael: It just was an interesting topic to me. It seemed very newsworthy.
Scott: I see. I bring that up but partially just to joke a bit, but also it is important to everybody listening, like, as people get older into this demographic, they’re well-trained. Now, I get it. I’m a little bit of an outlier in that I own and have worked in tech for over 20 some odd years. So, certainly, as I get in older and keep using a computer and online, etc., to search things, then, you know, I’m going to be better trained than the average person. But all those other people that are currently using computers in their late 50s or early 60s happily, they’re going to be seniors soon too.
So I just want to kind of take a little aside there because we’ve spent a lot of time, Michael, over the years speaking with a lot of our ortho, spine, and neuro customers, but they do have older patients, especially say a total joint patient is an older patient, hopefully. And it was like, well, you know, the older people, my patients, they really don’t go online. That’s not true.
Michael: Yeah. Variations of how we heard that were, you know, maybe their adult children are the ones doing the research for them but not necessarily them, you know, some of those different ways of voicing that. And you’ve had this business for 20 years now.
Michael: So some of those initial discussions around that, hey, they were probably fair, you know, like…
Scott: Right, 20 years ago, it was a fair statement, and I would always follow up with, yeah, but their kids are going to be basically poo-pooing or reaffirming, you know, the decision of that particular patient. Now, it’s much less that and just more of, hey, they’re online
Michael: Just to point out real quick. So 20 years ago, the audience that was doing the research for their parents is now the audience that’s potentially having to do…
Scott: There you go.
Michael: …this research themselves. So just how that behavior has evolved.
Scott: Absolutely. You know, that was that whole point. Yeah, you’re right. Bringing that right back. So, you know, the 45-year-old checking something out for their 65-year-old parent. Hey, now, they’re 65. So it’s something to bear in mind. So I want to get past very quickly this whole idea that seniors don’t go online. Seniors do go online, period. So, now, we kind of move into other things like usability. And this was one article that we will be referencing.
And, again, when we publish this particular podcast, because it’s going to be on HealthcareNOW Radio, of course, we’ll have it on our site as well, we will have all the links so that you can read these articles, everybody listening. So don’t drive yourself too crazy. The article is called “Usability for Seniors: Challenges and Changes.” The author is Lexie Kane from back in 2019, and she just brings up some interesting points here about how people 65 and older do face some unique challenges.
There’s digital literacy that we talked about where, hey, they’re online. That doesn’t mean they’re the most “hip.” This is something that’s near and dear to my heart because we’ve done a lot of testing with our designs that you need to have designs that accommodate these users and, frankly, all people… There are a lot of younger people with certain disabilities where you’ve got to accommodate that. So in 2019, 73% of people over the age of 65 were connected to the internet.
I think that number is going to be drastically higher, exacerbated by COVID. So 73% even in 2019.
You’ve got to design to those people or at a minimum for them. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that people over the age of 65 had the highest household wealth of any age group. So let’s just say this, if you ignore them, you ignore them at your own peril. That’s part one. And part two, why would you want to? Right, Michael? I mean, 73% online, that number is going to be higher.
I will have a caveat here, a slash warning. If your website has not been designed with the Americans with Disabilities Act in mind, you need to go back to your developer or you need to go start thinking about that because it’s going to be an issue. It will be an issue.
Michael: Yeah. And that’s something that, you know, may or may not have been made clear to any practice when they started their new website or whatever, but it’s definitely something that you can ask your developer about it. There are things that can be done to go back and make sites more compliant with that. So there’s not necessarily, you know, or now you have to throw out your entire site, but it’s just something to definitely be thinking about and, definitely, it’s worth asking your developer about it.
Scott: Yeah. “Is my site ADA-compliant?” would be the specific question, and, by the way, the answer is going to be, “I think so?” And I say that with a smile because the ADA, that particular act, it’s now up to the agencies, the federal agencies to describe their interpretation of what the Americans with Disabilities Act requires for an online property. There are certain things that a lot of web developers do. There’s like a baseline set of things that you can do, color contrast, size of type, readability, that kind of stuff.
Rolling over a particular image and having sound play for those who are sight-impaired. There’s quite a bit that you can do, but getting back to this. So I’ve got all these people, Michael, who are older, they have money. They are probably in need of some sort of healthcare help, especially if they’re searching. So, you know, what’s some advice that you would give to a practice regarding what’s on that site and how to attract attention?
Michael: Let’s do this just before we dig too deep into the full advice side of things. Let’s kind of, like, just kind of paint this full picture. So, you know, so far we’re talking about the fact that we definitely have a growing population, and what we just kind of automatically assume about the seniors is no longer necessarily going to be the case. Like, things are evolving, behaviors are changing. So, hey, we do have this group of people, they are online. They do have means to be able to invest in their health care if they so choose.
You know, there is Medicare, but there’s also people that will go above and beyond just what Medicare provides. So they have options, but then there’s a lot of other things that are happening. So I think, you know, taking a look at this next article, Scott, that you’ve got there.
Scott: Yeah. It’s Never Too Late: Pandemic Propels Older Shoppers Online. And that’s something I kind of referenced very quickly. It’s an article very recent February of 21. And I know that I am going to mispronounce that author’s name. So I will… It’s Anne D’Innocenzio, that’s my guess. I’m doing the best I can. So, Anne, my apologies.
Michael: That’s good.
Scott: But we will have a link to this as well. This comes back to that kind of thing like, hey… So the previous article says, hey, in 2019, we’re at 73%. And now we’ve got the pandemic hitting and the exacerbation of people requiring online, you know, to just interact. Now, we’ve got Americans 65 and older rang up an average of nearly $187 per month online. If you’re a doctor listening in on this, a surgeon listening, and you’re like, “So what?” It’s like, well, that’s a big deal. Because it’s now becoming normal for them to go online, buy a book, go shopping.
So believe me, it’s very normal for them to go search and get your reputation online, to go search and see if you do a particular procedure online, and to connect the dots accordingly. So I think that’s a big thing. And then the other takeaway from this is that they’re the fastest-growing group of online shoppers by age group. I mean, look, whatever they spend online, they spend online. And I really do. I’m always fascinated by this, but I remember my own mother-in-law had a minor eye issue.
She needed to go see somebody. And I just happened to be up visiting. And she just mentioned it. She goes, “Man, I got to go find somebody.” And before I could even say anything, she was in front of her computer, and she was on Healthgrades, and she was researching. Look, she literally typed in, “eye doctor Kalama city.” It’s like, whoa, I’m just kinda watching this, you know. My one-person test. And found it, she read the reviews, she went to the website. She was like, “Wow, this person looks good for me. Great.” And she got the procedure done. I don’t think it would have happened 20 years ago,
Michael: Whatever the specific dollar amount is. So they spend $187 a month, 60% more than the previous year. That’s a big job.
Scott: I know.
Michael: I mean, like, what it’s indicating is confidence. I’m now more confident that this is a viable means of obtaining services and goods. You know, like, now I will use this pathway, and it’s not automatically a scary thing. And all age groups had some sort of process where, you know, hey, we’re just starting to test out. It’s funny because I still don’t like buying shoes online. I’m just like, “I don’t want to deal with it.” You know, like. And so I’ve got a natural hesitancy towards…
So each person has their own, like, hesitancy around, like, how they’ll engage online. But we had to start overcoming some of those hesitancies. Like, the world just changed, and we just had to deal with it. So the consumerization that we’re experiencing and all these other areas is definitely affecting our healthcare side of things. And that’s where we’ve got a couple more articles. We’ve got an article called Seniors and Technology During COVID-19. This was an article from January of this year.
And when I start reading off some of the stats, you’ll see that it’s been updated a few times since it came out. So it’s from the Ericsson blog. And in April of this year, 3 in 10 seniors answered that they had downloaded some type of Corona-related app due to the crisis. So you have 3 in 10 that are downloading some sort of app. And also by then 2 in 10 had used a remote consultation app and have been in contact with someone in the health sector.
It’s definitely a smaller share of seniors as compared to other age groups, but, again, trends are changing. The group that was searching for their parents’ healthcare 20 years ago is now the group that’s figuring this stuff out for themselves and going through all the many changes that have happened. Seniors have also experienced purchasing medical supplies online. And in April, at least half the seniors who used the internet, so they usually buy medical supplies online on their smartphone at least monthly. So, again, in terms of technology…
Scott: Think about that statement. Right?
Michael: Yeah. In terms of technology things, you know, there was a lot of people that I knew that were very hesitant to buy anything on their smartphones at all for the longest time. You know, it’s like…
Scott: Use a smartphone.
Michael: …it’s an internet connection. It’s an internet connection just like your computer, but that additional level of hesitancy, the additional level of just difficulty because mobile purchasing wasn’t easy for so long. You had to fill in every single form, and you had to, you know…
And so you think about, you know, miming the idea of typing in all that information into a phone, but you think about that for people that may have various level of dexterity, all of that, it gets more and more complicated. So there are a lot of factors to think through, and yet it is happening. So, again, the hesitancy that I may have towards a certain type of shopping or that… The biases that we each bring must be challenged by the fact that people are moving online anyway.
They are adopting these new behaviors even if it doesn’t naturally come to us that like, “Oh, well I don’t do it that way. So I’m sure everybody else doesn’t.” Like, no. Be cool and think about how this is working for other people.
P3 Pro Tip
Hey, everyone. It’s Michael here with your P3 pro tip for the week.
Have you noticed that more and more devices have voice search capabilities? Along with this more and more patients are using voice search when searching for a doctor. Well, there are many ways you can optimize your practice’s website for voice search. An easy way is creating FAQ content. Voice searches tend to be phrased in the form of a question. So writing content in a Q&A format that covers common patient questions can help you set up your practice to show up in more voice searches.
If you’re just joining us, this is the “Paradigm Shift of Healthcare.” I’m Michael Roberts here with Scott Zeitzer, and we’re talking about the evolving digital behaviors of seniors and what that means for practices. So far we’ve covered the fact that more and more of the senior audience is online as of 2019. And we can just imagine how much this has changed since then. As of 2019, 73% of people over the age of 65 were connected to the internet.
We are definitely seeing that this audience is also growing and how much they’re willing to spend online and how confident they’re becoming in this process. And we’re just starting to talk about how they’re becoming more confident around the health care components of that as well. One other article that we’ll kind of look at, and then we’ll be done with the stat side of things for now, but I did want to make sure we really dig into the fact that this just isn’t our opinions.
Like, this is more than just, “Hey, we’re a digital company. So we think you should be digital.” Like, okay, but, look, people are actually changing their behaviors. So this last article comes from MobiHealthNews from Mallory Hackett. And it says that a survey shows that seniors are embracing technology and telehealth during the pandemic. More than 60% of Medicare-eligible seniors say they’ve embraced technology more during the pandemic according to a survey that was run by healthinsurance.com. A survey found that overall use of telemedicine services increased 300% among seniors during the pandemic.
Michael: That’s insane. More than 40% of respondents say they’ve used telemedicine since the start of the pandemic and 30% saying they’ve used it more than once. It goes on and on. I mean, people are using these services more. Yes, it was because the world changed and that was your option. That was the thing you could really do, but people did find a way. I think so much of, you know, where we talked about, like, how much progress happened in such a short amount of time. This is the ongoing effect of that.
People have now experienced this, and whatever all the, like, you know, reimbursement rules are going to be going forward, all that fun kind of stuff, people are used to obtaining information and contacting their doctor digitally now. This is something that practices have to think about as well.
Scott: I think to follow up with something I said earlier, the level of confidence they have making those decisions online is higher as well. It’s really important that, in my mind, I think we’ve made a strong consideration for, like, guys, you’ve got to take a look at your site, take a look at your online presence. I always say site, but it’s your online presence overall.
Michael: All of the different pieces. Yeah.
Scott: Yeah. A lot of different pieces. Take a look at that online presence. Are you speaking to this age group well? If you do have a site, is your site designed appropriately with the Americans with Disabilities Act? You know, when we talk about…and this is something you kind of made me put off because you’re right, we had to essentially finish speaking about all these statistics and finish where we were with where we’re at but okay.
So as a medical practitioner, I’m convinced now you got me. Older people are online, and I’ve got to do what I need to do to speak to them. How do I talk differently to them than I would to, like, a 45-year-old? Which is what I wish I was, you know, a 45-year-old. Being older.
Michael: And there’s going to be a lot of different components to that. I do think that in terms of just content writing, like, let’s just focus on that component of it because we’ve talked a lot about overall design, like making sure that you consider your audience fully and you’re designing appropriately. In terms of content writing, you know, I don’t know that I would change all that much.
Scott: Go ahead. That’s good.
Michael: So, you know, I think that, like, if you’re focused on clear communication, if you’re focused on here’s what to expect when you go to the practice, if you’re focused on here’s what to expect after the procedure, all of these kinds of things, now, as the practitioner, definitely consider your audience and think about what that particular audience needs. But, again, are you going to talk to someone that’s 70 years old as opposed to 65 or 60 drastically differently about how to recover from a hip replacement or, you know, these different… I’m sure there are going to be different factors, but you should probably have all that information already outlined on your site. That information probably should already be there.
Scott: It’s a valid point. You know, I was talking to an orthopedic surgeon up in Buffalo, Dr. Andrew Wickline, who has a great PT regimen, really interesting about his philosophy, how he is an avid believer of staying away from opioids at all possible, if at all possible. And his PT regimen is along those lines. To your point, Michael, you know, his regimen works basically for everybody but even more so, you know, for someone who may be “a little bit older.”
And, by the way, you know, all kidding aside, I am turning 60 in about a year, but I’m still working out every day. I’m still lifting weights. I’m still doing all those things. And so that old, you know, like, today’s 60 is yesterday’s 40 or whatever that is. I do think we have a healthier, hopefully, aging population. I know that I am. And I do think to your point, Michael, about just, hey, just have some good, clear expectations, you know. I always go back to, like, good website, good content, good reputation marketing online, then you can go from there.
So, yeah, that’s a good takeaway. I think if you’re listening, that would make a lot of people feel better because it’s like, “Oh, no. Now, what do I need to do?” You know? It’s like, no, if you study as compilations as well, that’s cool. That’s great. Anything different, you know, on the social media side, say the way that you would have a conversation on Facebook, say.
Michael: Yeah. That’s a really good point. You know, what’s interesting about this and I would say that this is, like, very true of all the populations you serve. So not necessarily just seniors but of all the different demographics that are in your area. Are you showing off maybe other patients or other people that represent that demographic?
Michael: You know, when it comes to, like, imagery that you have on your site, when it comes to if you have any patient testimonials that you can feature, people that just sort of share their stories and finding the stories that are most relevant to the different types of demographics that are out there. So if you do have a high senior population, a high percentage of that, are you finding good patient testimonials that reflect that group?
Are they saying, “Here were my concerns when I came into the process, and here’s how this doctor addressed those concerns and how I felt confident afterwards”? Like, having that kind of information available at the right time. Because just having a big list of it and expecting somebody to sort through it all, it’s never going to work. But having that information available to people at the right time is so much more reassuring than just saying, “I’m really good at this.” “I’m really good at working on this kind of surgery.” And they go, “Okay, good.”
But then you say, “And here’s this particular patient’s testimony to that particular component of that.” And they talk about, “I was worried about this. I had this kind of concern, and here was my experience.” That just adds so much weight to everything else you’ve just said as the practitioner.
Scott: I think that’s a critical thing. And it is important that there’s this concept of having a good spread. Like, we’re talking about seniors, but that could be assigned to whatever, you know, that specific group is. There is a surgeon in New York that works with a lot of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Blood transfusion for Jehovah’s Witnesses, from what I understand, a big no-no. That requires somebody willing to do surgery with minimal blood loss. And this particular surgeon definitely was willing to do it and reached out and had cases and discussed, you know, along that line.
And the same thing goes to getting back to the seniors. It’s like, if all you’ve got are, you know, happy young people on your site, hey, that’s great. And I was once a happy young person. Now, I’m just a cranky old man, but I would, to your point, like to see, you know, some stories about older people, about success with older people because there are different things. You know, I fractured a wrist about a year ago, and it definitely took me a lot longer to get back to healing. And there were different things that I had to do to get back to where I wanted to be. And a younger person obviously bounces back faster or just bounces, which is a whole different thing.
Michael: Then crumples falling.
Scott: Crumpling like I did. Yeah. But I think that that’s a critical component. You know, and Facebook, Michael, you can target certain demographics, certain age groups as well, correct?
Michael: Yeah, for sure. I mean…
Scott: Ad campaign?
Michael: Yeah. There’s two components to it. All of these platforms are going through the process of trying not to get in trouble. So that’s version one, you know, how do I make this as equal to all types of people as possible? And, you know, and to a degree, like, marketers with any new toy, I think we, like, cheated the system a little too much. Like, the whole privacy concerns, all that kind of stuff, like, those are valid and those have come up a lot because of how invasive some of this targeting got.
But there are things like being able to target a senior population and say like, “Hey, I understand that this audience has this concern.” And something like Facebook, it is pay-to-play. I mean, you do get some organic coverage and, like, infinitesimal kind of…
Scott: Yeah. It’s pay-to-play on Facebook. It does.
Michael: But to really get in front of this audience, you do need to put some kind of boost. So then as from a business’s perspective, if you’re are trying to reach out to your audience, you better be as targeted as you can. You can waste a lot of money on those platforms if you’re not giving some level of targeting. So I do think that, like, having some sort of targeting and then really focusing in, again, like, what’s the messaging that you’re going to get in front of this audience.
Because one of the things about a website, you know, with a website, in particular, you can get very, very far down a pathway where you’re saying, if you’re this age or over, please click this page. But if you’re this age or younger, please click this page. And the sort of self-filtering that you have to do to get to the right information can just be a real pain. So sometimes on your website, you may have to include the full audience.
You know, if you’re coming in for a hip replacement, this is what you can expect. If you’re this kind of patient, expect this. So that article may need to include all those things. Whereas something like Facebook, something like Google Search that you can do advertising on. That’s another platform where, again, you can kind of get more focused on, but, you know, giving that really targeted messaging where possible, what’s the easiest way that your patient can find what they need to find to feel confident about this process?
Scott: Yeah. It’s really fascinating stuff. We could talk quite a bit about it, but, you know, it does go back to those basics, everybody, the website, good content, reputation, marketing. And then, wow, targeted ads can be really helpful. They really can.
Michael: For sure. The most important component of this to take away is that seniors are spending more time online. They’re getting more confident online. So this gives you a lot of opportunities as a practice. Everybody’s wanting to engage their own healthcare in a new way. You know, this is one of the big things that we focus on in the show is how consumerization is affecting all of this. People want to be more involved. Not everybody feels 100% confident in the process obviously, but where you can meet this audience, the stuff, they take that opportunity.
Again, thank you so much every week for joining us as often as you do. If you’d like to learn more, please feel free to visit the website at p3practicemarketing.com. We’ve set up a short quiz to help practices think through their approach to word of mouth and what next steps may need to look like in order to make that word of mouth more effective. And you can find that quiz linked from our homepage. It’s right up there at the top. Until next time, thank you so much for your time. Have a great week.
Announcer: Thanks again for tuning in to the “Paradigm Shift of Healthcare.” This program is brought to you by Health Connective, custom marketing solutions for medtech and pharma. Subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, or anywhere you listen to podcasts.