9:40 - 10:00 amSaturday, September 6
LK 102
Bridging the digital health divide: Helping older users with mobile health technologies
LK 102
Bridging the digital health divide: Helping older users with mobile health technologies
Assistant Professor, University of Waterloo School of Pharmacy
The popularity of electronic and mobile health tools and devices is exploding but there are certain populations that have more difficulties accessing new and emerging technologies than others. Individuals... Read more

Description

The popularity of electronic and mobile health tools and devices is exploding but there are certain populations that have more difficulties accessing new and emerging technologies than others. Individuals who are not online (also known as “non-liners”) are largely older and low income. The same population is disproportionately affected by chronic illness and while mobile touchscreen devices have made Internet-enabled technologies more affordable and usable, only one in five older adults currently uses a smartphone. Though many are interested in using new technologies to monitor or track their health, the tools and devices currently available are often designed for younger generations and fail to consider the age-related barriers to use.

Over the past year, we have worked with over 100 adults between the ages of 50 and 93 exploring new mobile health technologies and devices from their perspectives. Our studies have examined touchscreen devices, applications and wearable activity trackers. The objective of this presentation is to share our lessons learned for making mobile health technologies more accessible to older adults, including design features, assistive tools and strategies to support new users.

For mobile health tools and devices, in addition to affordability, the most common barriers to use that we have observed are age-related changes to vision, hearing, cognition and physical ability. For individuals with age-related vision loss, for example, it can be difficult to read a shiny screen that produces significant glare. Similarly, small, low contrast text can be difficult to read. Age-related hearing loss can make it difficult to hear system alerts or reminders. Older hands may have a slight tremor that reduces the responsiveness of small buttons and touchscreens. Rather than lightly tapping a touchscreen to navigate or type, older adults often press too long and hard to be effective. Many older users also struggle to learn by trial and error. As more devices are sold without instruction manuals, older adults are forced to rely on younger generations such as adult children or customer service staff, many of whom are not equipped to provide adequate support.

This presentation will provide practical strategies for helping older adults use mobile health tools and devices, including easy work-arounds, the role of apomediation, inexpensive assistive tools, system settings and design features. The overall goal is to encourage clinicians, developers and researchers to consider how they may be contributing to the digital health divide for older users and how they can help bridge the gap.

Kelly is an assistant professor at the University of Waterloo School of Pharmacy and a licensed and practicing pharmacist. She completed her undergraduate pharmacy degree at the University of Alberta, her residency at the London Health Sciences Centre in Ontario and a PharmD, MSc and post-doctoral fellowship at the University of British Columbia. Kelly’s research focuses on novel ways to bring research findings to busy medical clinics and pharmacy counters, namely through innovations in digital technologies. Her main projects focus on the intersection between mobile devices, wearable activity trackers and social media as a means to help older adults manage chronic illness. Other work has included examining the adoption of social media by the pharmacy profession and the use of social media platforms in undergraduate education. 
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