Left Behind by Society: The Elderly Population and Challenges Faced with TeleHealth
TimeThursday, April 152:25pm - 2:27pm EDT
DescriptionThe year of 2020 brought about many changes and challenges, especially for healthcare. The rapid development of technology and adoption of telehealth and remote patient monitoring has allowed healthcare professionals to continue to care for their patients while minimizing the risk of transmission of a novel virus. Keeping up with the rapid pace of change is challenging for everyone but it has been more challenging for some populations. Those who have grown up with technology and its rapid advances are at an advantage and able to rapidly adapt to the everchanging technophile climate. However, there are populations such as the elderly, which includes more than 46 million adults age 65 and older living in the U.S., who have not been engaged with technology, specifically wearables, during this period of rapid development and adoption. Often designers, developers, and implementers fail to take into consideration this population that has the most health issues and limited experience with technology. This has resulted in the elderly struggling to keep up with the current pace of technology development, adoption, and implementation due to the lack of familiarity, experience, and comfort. There are also age and health related physical limitations that may hinder the ability to implement and interact with devices that require dexterity, fine motor control, and adequate near vision. Companies, engineers, product designers, and anyone that is involved in the design and development process must identify and understand the specific needs and limitations of this user population to enable a successful implementation. We present a case study of a wearable medical device designed for remote health monitoring that illustrates the struggles that the elderly face when interacting with technology and how this can undermine the intended use and value: remote medical monitoring and patient care. Based on our usability studies, we documented that the struggles experienced by the user group are rooted in physical and cognitive age-related declines, health conditions, and a lack of experience. However, these issues can be prevented or mitigated through the application of human-centered design principles that allow technology to address the needs of the broadest user population including the elderly. These principles assist developers with understanding the target user population, to appreciate the challenges and limitations associated with this population, and to significantly improve the impact of these innovations. Overall, this case study will demonstrate how the needs of the elderly are not always prospectively understood and considered when developing or repurposing technology for biomedical monitoring and how the inclusion of human centered design principles can significantly contribute to the success of technology as an important tool in the remote monitoring and treatment of the most vulnerable and numerous patients.