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The Telehealth Disconnect

an AI-generated image that shows an older woman using her computer to have a telehealth consultation with her doctor.
Midjourney prompt: An older south asian woman on a telehealth video call with her doctor

In my last post I wrote about the risk that loneliness poses to seniors. It’s a threat that’s amplified by the fact that so many of our connections and ways to connect these days go directly through our technology. Technology that seniors struggle to use, resulting in their rates of isolation being even higher than the epidemic levels we’re all facing.

But there’s another major challenge that senior technology illiteracy poses to societies: how we can practically manage the ballooning cost of healthcare.

With the population of seniors expanding more rapidly than other age groups, and aged health care clearly set to be a big expense in the coming decades governments are looking around for options to handle greater volumes of care more efficiently. And during the COVID19 pandemic, Telehealth proved itself as a viable option; we had a go at talking to our doctors over our phones because we didn’t really have many other options.

And it turns out that basic Telehealth (aka video calls) works pretty well, at least for initial and basic consultations, which are the majority of volume taking up a GP’s time.

So, governments thought, problem solved: Telehealth is the future. And indeed they’ve since mandated that to be the case. But they’re missing a crucial connection: the success of Telehealth solutions to positively impact the cost of healthcare and improve outcomes is predicated on the ability of the patient to use technology. This is the Telehealth Healthcare Disconnect.

And it turns out that the biggest population for whom Telehealth must work are the ones least able, as a group, to use technology effectively. So unless senior technology illiteracy is addressed in a systematic way on-scale the cost reductions and improvement to care that we’re hoping to see will not materialise to their potential.

To that end, OnRamp Academy is undertaking research to develop novel approaches that address digital literacy.

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