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How Hospitals Engage Seniors Online

Marianne Aiello, for HealthLeaders Media, November 7, 2012

When healthcare marketers talk about using online vehicles to reach out to patients, they typically have visions of young adults downloading an ER wait time app or BlackBerry-toting professionals visiting a hospital microsite from their offices. What healthcare marketers almost never think of is Grandma or Grandpa firing up a netbook and logging onto their EHR. Yet it's really happening, more and more.

Americans over age 65, whose health might benefit the most from modern digital technology, are the least able and least likely to use i. According to the Pew Research Center, more than half of Americans 65 and older use the Internet or e-mail, but after age 75, usage drops to 34%.

There are many potential obstacles to getting more seniors active on e-health, such as lack of connectivity; lack of awareness; problems with vision, hearing, cognition, or manual dexterity; limited finances or learning options; and concerns about privacy.

With some finesse, however, hospital marketers have it within their power to begin breaking down most of these barriers. Here are some simple steps to get more seniors active on your site.

House a senior-friendly computer lab
First things first: solve the connectivity problem by setting up public-use computer kiosks. Make them user-friendly and senior-friendly by adjusting the screen ratio so that the text is larger than normal, and tape up a user's guide. Be sure to have staff assigned to help as needed.

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