A Deep Dive Into Senior Healthcare Market Trends: Creating Better Health Outcomes
The healthcare sector is the backbone of our society; an industry created around the goal of providing physical and mental care for people in need. The healthcare industry is the third-largest in the country, making up 19.7% of spending in the US economy. The importance of an efficient healthcare industry can’t be overstated, and technology is increasingly playing a massive role.
The potential technology has to innovate and revolutionize industries is massive. There isn’t an industry around right now where technology isn’t playing an impactful role; the same is true with healthcare. Technology in healthcare ranges from medical devices to IT systems that help providers maintain organization.
While much of that technology is internal, there are also technologies designed for patient use to try and increase efficiency and elevate the patient experience. This is incredibly important, but some are concerned that technology in healthcare may be abandoning the most critical market in the industry: seniors.
Seniors and older adults spend the most money on healthcare for obvious reasons. According to Health System Tracker, adults 55 and over accounted for 56% of healthcare spending in 2019, despite only making up 30% of the population. Any tech additions to the healthcare sector must take seniors into account.
Seniors are widely presumed to have fewer capabilities with technology and less of a willingness to learn. For that reason, a healthy dose of skepticism over the ability to fully integrate patient-facing technology into health care for seniors exists. However, this assumption is based on generalizations and may not be entirely fair or reflective of the North American market.
Many healthcare solutions, such as QLess’ appointment scheduling and virtual queueing features, can have a profound positive impact on senior care. Analyzing the market to see if these solutions align with the needs and preferences of seniors is essential. In this deep dive, we will explore the important trends in patient care for seniors, breaking down the tendencies and technologies that can define the future of this healthcare industry segment.
A Need for Expanded Efficiency in Senior Healthcare
Before we begin to cover the role of technology in senior healthcare, let’s dive into why it is so important and how the next few years will put the senior care system under the test like never before.
Senior care has always been incredibly important because they tend to be more vulnerable. They have more chronic diseases, take more medications, and spend more money on healthcare than any other demographic. This will likely forever remain the case. However, a modern demographic change is poised to make senior care an even more significant point of emphasis.
Baby boomers were a generation that massively increased the population of the United States in the post-war era. Now, much of this generation is aging, impacting the demographics of the US. According to the Administration for Community Living, there were 54 million Americans 65 and older in 2019. The projections have that number reaching 80.8 million by 2040 and 94.7 million by 2060.
Data from the Population Reference Bureau shows that the 65-and-older’s share of the population will rise from 16% in 2018 to 23% by 2060. This means that the importance of efficient senior care will only rise. This will be evident in nursing homes, senior living facilities, and medical centers. This is problematic because there is already an issue with labor shortages in the healthcare industry.
According to CNN, the United States healthcare industry will need to hire 2.3 million new healthcare workers by 2025 to adequately care for its aging population. The same report projects that the US will be short 446,000 home health aides, 95,000 nurse assistants, and more. The home health aide shortage is particularly pronounced because these are often low-paying jobs that struggle to attract new talent.
No technology can single-handedly solve labor shortages; however, some technologies improve the ability of offices to intake customers and meet individual needs. This will become crucial as the need for efficiency in senior health care grows. Let’s look at seniors’ technology habits to better understand the solutions that will work for them.
Seniors’ Relationship to Technology
If patient-facing technology is to be further implemented into patient care for senior citizens, it has to be easy for them to use and align with their technological tendencies. The technological tendencies of seniors differ greatly from person to person, but broader trends emerge when looking at the group as a whole.
One of the trends that bode most positively for the implementation of technology in senior care is seniors’ growing adoption of technology. One of the biggest changes is seniors’ usage of smartphones. According to the Pew Research Center, the percentage of seniors that owned a smartphone grew from 13% in 2012 to 61% in 2021. While that still lags behind the rest of the population, it is a massive increase in less than a decade.
Similarly, more seniors are using the internet than ever before. According to a separate report by the Pew Research Center, the share of seniors that use the internet jumped from 14% in 2000 to 67% in 2017, and that number has likely only grown since then. The myth of seniors being completely isolated from technology may be just that: a myth.
Some roadblocks still define how or whether seniors can use technology. These include physical obstacles, such as vision impairment. According to the American Family Physician, one in three people will have some form of vision-reducing disease by the time they are 65. Implementing patient-facing technology for senior care organizations will require dealing with these issues and making necessary accommodations.
Utilizing additional technologies in senior care is more feasible than ever. More seniors are using smartphones and surfing the internet than ever before, and their technological competency will be much higher because of this. Let’s look at some important data that show trends senior care providers need to pay attention to.
Virtual Appointments or In-Person?
The pandemic shook nearly every aspect of daily living. The healthcare industry was one of the industries most impacted by the changes wrought by COVID-19. An already overburdened industry had to deal with a massive influx of new patients carrying a highly transmissible disease. To combat this, one of the solutions implemented was a focus on telehealth and virtual appointments.
Telehealth was an $11.23 billion-dollar industry in 2019 before the onset had taken root. By the end of 2021, it was valued at $62.4 billion. That growth is expected to continue, with a projected 37% compound annual growth rate from 2022-28. It seems likely that telehealth is here to stay, even as we enter a post-pandemic world. What is an important consideration in this is how seniors feel about it.
According to a QLess survey of 250 Americans over the age of 45, 79.4% agreed that they’d prefer an in-person appointment to a virtual one. That means only one-fifth prefer the streamlined virtual experience. However, that doesn’t mean they won’t come around to the enhanced convenience and speed of telehealth long-term. Older adults are historically late adapters, and if virtual appointments are here to stay, there is a good chance the share of people that prefer them will increase.
Still, the more personal experience of an in-person visit trumps the convenience of telehealth for most seniors. Seniors are the population demographic that is least online, and that does the least amount of their communication through technology. They were raised during a time when cell phones and the internet were distant science fiction, and many of their pre-technology tendencies remain.
For a senior healthcare team trying to expand its telehealth operations, it is important to focus on ease of use and personalization. QLess is a tool that healthcare teams can implement to ensure they can handle and scale a telehealth operation that is punctual and effective. Let’s look at how below.
Seamlessly Handling Increased Virtual Volume
QLess has virtual services tools that are the ideal way to help healthcare organizations provide a simplified telehealth experience. The process is simple. Your customers can arrange their appointment through the QLess platform on the website or through a downloadable mobile app. When it is time for their appointment, customers can join a digital line with the virtual waitlist software. They will then receive a video conference link sent via SMS when the appointment is set to begin. QLess is integrated with Zoom and Microsoft Teams for easy video conferencing.
The typical elder will not struggle with this process. It is incredibly straightforward and self-explanatory. Senior care organizations can help their customers along the way by sharing step-by-step explainer videos to ensure that nothing is lost in translation.
With software like QLess, an organization can ensure that they maximize the volume of virtual customers it can handle. These systems are designed to take the burden off elders and healthcare offices by automatically managing the process. These virtual patient journey management systems can ensure that customers get their appointments on time and that healthcare staff doesn’t have to waste time managing these processes.
As we move into a future where the telehealth industry’s growth continues to surge, the share of seniors that use telehealth will likely increase. Rather than go all the way to healthcare offices and wait in lines to get new prescriptions or treat minor issues, the ease of simply video conferencing with a specialist will win out. When that is the case, businesses need a tool to help them maximize their virtual services. That is what QLess can offer.
A Focus on Mobile Communication
Communication is crucial in the healthcare industry. The importance of communication between patients and their primary care physician is significant. A breakdown in communication poses a problem for several different reasons. For starters, it can result in missed appointments. These are exceedingly common in the healthcare industry and cost providers billions of dollars a year. Poor communication can also cause health concerns when information isn’t conveyed effectively on either end.
To improve communication between senior institutional care facilities and their patients, we need to understand the communication methods of the average senior. There is an assumption that the typical elder isn’t using modern technology for their communications, but this assumption would be incorrect. As we mentioned before, most seniors now have smartphones, which is the communication method they prefer with their healthcare providers.
According to the QLess survey, 54% of adults 45+ prefer to schedule their appointments through a phone call. This significantly contrasts with the general public, where 67% of patients prefer online booking. Almost 25% of seniors preferred to schedule appointments in person, showing the older generation’s appreciation for the more personal approach.
Regarding appointment reminders and other forms of communication, the vast majority of seniors prefer mobile. 55% of the respondents in the QLess survey answered that they want to receive communications via text message. The second most common answer was phone calls, which 27% prefer. This means that 82% of seniors want communications from their health providers through the phone. Only 9.3% responded with emails.
For health care providers for the elderly, mobile communication offers a pathway to reach them that aligns with their preferences. The number of elderly citizens that use smartphones is growing by the year and is already a majority. Senior respondents to the QLess survey have stated that mobile communication is their preferred way of hearing from providers. So implementing tools geared toward mobile communication can go a long way.
This is where QLess for healthcare can be a major asset. It is a mobile appointment software solution that facilitates communication between health offices and patients. QLess has bi-directional communication, so senior patients can message back and forth with staff. Staff can also schedule appointment reminders so patients are always aware well in advance of when their appointments are scheduled. It also has scheduling software that makes booking an appointment easy and fast.
The Move Toward a Virtual Waiting Room
The waiting room has always been something that puts people off. Long waits are agitating, particularly in a stale, crowded waiting room, and they are also a health hazard. Waiting rooms often feature people in close proximity seeking medical assistance, which could spread contagions. With the pandemic, this issue has become all the more pronounced. If you are running a healthcare company with crowded waiting rooms, this could be a source of discomfort for senior patients.
According to QLess’ survey, 59.4% of senior respondents associate congested waiting areas and long lines with unsafe conditions. That is a significant majority of people that see a long line or a crowded waiting room and experience feelings of discomfort. A crowded waiting room in a hospital or senior care facility might seem unavoidable to providers, but the truth is that the technology exists to completely change this aspect of the patient experience.
A virtual waiting room is an alternative to a physical, congested waiting room that seniors will prefer. QLess has a doctor’s office or hospital queue system that allows customers to check in for their appointments remotely and wait from wherever they please. How it works is that customers can enter a virtual waiting room in the lead-up to their appointment. They can monitor wait times and ensure the line is moving. They can enter the physical office when they see that their appointment is near.
This removes customers’ need to stand in a physical line or waiting room. It is one of the waiting room solutions that affords patients the most freedom. While some providers would worry about implementing such a solution, as we’ve mentioned, QLess perfectly fits the pre-established mobile tendencies of the modern senior.
Seniors still value their time, and they heavily value their safety. QLess presents a safer, more convenient solution to patients that don’t enjoy the waiting room experience. Healthcare providers can ensure they reduce the likelihood of outbreaks in their offices and create a more seamless patient journey.
Combating Wait Times in the Healthcare Industry
Wait times are something the modern customer simply won’t tolerate. They pose serious problems for consumers in many industries, which is certainly the case in healthcare. The statistics show that the healthcare industry has a serious wait time problem. According to RelyMD, the average wait time to be seen in an emergency department is two hours. For primary care physicians, the average wait is 18 minutes.
These wait times are endemic in the industry because it is overburdened with demand and a labor shortage, but that doesn’t mean customers are tolerant of them. According to a separate QLess study, 76% of customers find a wait of fewer than fifteen minutes to be a long wait time. Customers expect fast service, which isn’t commonplace in the healthcare industry.
Just because this is a longstanding problem doesn’t mean there can’t be positive momentum towards change. Seniors, who interact with the healthcare system more than anyone, are likely the people who bear the burden of these long waits, and healthcare offices should take the necessary steps to try and improve the pain of arduous waits.
A virtual waitlist software can have a direct positive impact on waits. Not only will they make the waiting experience more positive, but they’ll trim waits dramatically. The positive waiting experience part is clear. Patients can wait from wherever they please and track the wait times rather than be made to sit in a congested, uncomfortable waiting room.
A queuing system will also reduce wait times by giving staff a flexible calendar management tool that allows them to run patient flow more efficiently. QLess has automated lineup features that sort patients into lines based on the employee they’re seeing, their appointment type, and the time of their appointment. This line can also be integrated with walk-ins, with the line management features organizing the whole process as efficiently as possible. This reduces human error and keeps the line moving along smoothly.
Wait times are a consistent aspect of the patient experience that falls short of expectations. 60% of customers surveyed in the QLess survey have left a business and either never gone back or gone elsewhere. Minimizing wait times will ensure you keep your senior patients as satisfied as possible.
The Necessity of Mental Health Considerations
While a lot of conversation centers around the physical ailments suffered by seniors, there is a separate crisis facing our senior population. Mental health is an aspect of senior care that is not discussed enough. An estimated one in four seniors experiences some mental disorder, whether that is depression, anxiety, insomnia, or dementia. Due to the aging of our population, that number is projected to double by 2030.
This is a separate issue that is similarly an ominous problem that the healthcare industry will have to figure out. Mental and physical health are deeply intertwined, and if the mental health problems among seniors worsen, there could be an untold impact. Finding solutions to this problem is not easy, but one of the most important ways to make an impact is to make mental health care for seniors more accessible.
The more visible and accessible mental health resources are for seniors, the likelier they will be used. Part of that comes from simplified appointment scheduling. As we’ve mentioned, most seniors prefer to schedule appointments over the phone. But phone call scheduling systems that need a person on the other end limit scheduling times to work hours. Having a virtual appointment scheduler that is smartphone-powered will enable 24/7 appointment scheduling.
QLess’ online appointment scheduling software is a virtual way to schedule appointments that can provide seniors with easier access to crucial appointments. They can view a calendar showing different appointment types available, select from different available dates, and enter important information that pertains to their appointment. The process is easy, fast, and requires very little technical knowledge, only a smartphone or internet browser.
While physical ailments are more commonly discussed as a threat facing our senior population, mental health is a similarly crucial issue facing the healthcare system. There are tons of mental health resources specifically geared toward seniors, and as the population ages, more will certainly be developed. What is pivotal is that accessing these resources is easy and efficient. An advanced virtual appointment scheduling system can ensure 24/7 appointment scheduling abilities for seniors without the need for significant technological know-how.
Personalization in Senior Care
Healthcare is deeply personal. Everyone has a unique medical history, preferences for their style of care, and communication styles. Healthcare should feel open and communicative, with thought lent to individual needs. However, the healthcare system can feel deeply impersonal for patients, particularly seniors.
According to US News, nearly one in three US seniors now see at least five doctors yearly. It is hard to maintain a level of personalization for an individual when they are seeing so many different doctors over the course of a year. However, with the right care delivery models, communication channels, and a commitment to valuing the individual, senior care professionals can offer a more custom-tailored medical experience.
A lot of personalization comes down to communication. The pre-appointment communication process with healthcare offices and their patients is normally limited. Patients sign up for an appointment and show up at the time and date they have registered for. This lack of communication is very limiting. Healthcare offices need a communication tool that enables them to provide the most personalized experience possible.
With bi-directional communication features, QLess offers medical offices a way to engage patients and personalize their services from end to end. There are several ways that healthcare organizations can do this. They can automate messages to send when customers register for appointments, asking for additional information or what their specific preferences are. Staff can message patients customized messages and receive responses back. Organizations can even send pulse surveys to gather data on what their senior patients want to see improved.
If almost one in three senior patients has five or more doctors, each doctor must make an effort to make their experience personal. It can be extremely difficult for the average senior to bounce from doctor to doctor. While the in-person appointment is a big part of providing a personal experience, what healthcare workers do outside the appointments is just as important. Bi-directional communication outreach ensures patients feel the personalized approach from start to finish.
Standing Out in A Highly Competitive Senior Healthcare Market
The senior healthcare market is extremely competitive and only going to get more. The combination of labor shortages and an aging population will make senior healthcare one of the healthcare sectors with the most demand. The demand is significant already and will only increase. With more seniors comes more health problems, as according to the National Institute on Aging, approximately 85% of older adults have at least one chronic health condition, and 60% have two.
There will be a higher percentage of healthy seniors in the future, as this is the current trend. However, data shows that disproportionately it is wealthy and educated seniors that self-report as healthy, with a gap between wealthy seniors and the general population of seniors that has widened. This means the senior care industry will still face a significant demand increase over the next several decades.
Healthcare organizations must rise above what their competitors offer to stand out in a crowded industry. A big component of this is trimming down on waits and improving the patient experience. According to data from a QLess survey, 69% of respondents would patronize a competitor’s business if it had noticeably shorter wait times. Your patients aren’t necessarily loyal, and they expect quality service delivered in a timely manner.
Trimming down on wait times is a pivotal step for senior health services, and as we’ve explained, this is what a digital queue management system can provide. This software solution can entirely manage and automate the waiting experience and enable your patients to wait comfortably from wherever they please. Trimming waits is an effective way to separate from other organizations in a crowded market that will only grow more competitive.
Accommodations in Technology for Ease of Use
If a senior healthcare organization is going to implement a new patient-facing tech solution, its primary patients must be able to use it. If the people who frequent an operation on a typical business day cannot use the software implemented, the entire point is lost, and it is a waste of time and effort. We know that seniors can use smartphones and the internet, but what has to be accounted for is some of the accommodations they may need to use technology.
Seniors often deal with various physical ailments that can impact their ability to handle day-to-day tasks. 25% of seniors 65-74 and 50% of those 75 and older have disabling hearing loss. Similarly, the percentage of the population dealing with vision impairment rises with age. With suffering eyesight and hearing, some seniors may struggle to use certain technologies without the right accommodations.
That is why the future of senior-oriented technology requires implementing features designed to ease the burden on users that might have disabilities. This makes it possible for every user to benefit from what the technology offers. For senior living communities, doctor’s offices, or hospitals implementing QLess, there is a range of new features that can ease use for patients with disabilities.
These features include a text-to-speech screen reader, the ability to adjust font sizes and spacing, pausable animations, and on-screen tooltips that provide helpful information. These features enable users to move at their own pace and adjust the experience to fit their needs. For seniors suffering from vision or hearing impairment, these features can work in conjunction to ensure QLess is still easy to use.
The future of senior-oriented technology lies in tech solutions’ ability to adapt to their users. To effectively serve the senior population, technology must make necessary accommodations for some common physical ailments that senior patients deal with. By doing so, they ensure that elderly users can utilize and benefit from their solution.
Senior Living Trends in the Wake of the Pandemic
If any population disproportionately bore the brunt of the pandemic, it was likely seniors, particularly those living in nursing home care. For starters, they were the most at-risk for serious illness from COVID. But they were also extremely isolated in many parts of the world as the virus dramatically impacted life in senior living communities worldwide. There will be a lot of changes in senior living coming out of this global event. Two of the biggest will be an increased reliance on technology and a distrust of physical congestion.
The pandemic created an epidemic of loneliness. Rates of loneliness, anxiety and depression climbed across age groups in the United States, including among older populations. To combat the isolation of a dark time, many seniors had to learn how to use digital technology. Family Zooms became more common and the population of older adults subscribed to streaming platforms like Netflix jumped. In short, elders were forced to embrace technology to combat boredom and isolation.
Many senior living facilities have invested in technology to help their residents. Buildings have increased their wi-fi bandwidth, added hands-free and voice technology for seniors, and redefined the living space to account for the pandemic’s transmission. While technology isn’t the cure-all to isolation and loneliness, it is expediting seniors’ technological immersion. The tech adoption rate among seniors had already been climbing, but the pandemic sped that rate up.
While technology helped bring people closer together, the pandemic also made people more nervous to physically be closer together. Those concerns still linger and likely will for a while. The pandemic has slowed down, but it hasn’t stopped. Vulnerable populations, like elderly citizens, are still very much at risk from infection.
That is why removing physical congestion is a focus point in many nursing home care environments. If physical congestion is removed, the likelihood of COVID spread is drastically removed. That is why patient journey healthcare software like QLess has so much potential for senior care. It is a tech solution that aligns with modern seniors’ habits and helps combat physical congestion in a time of serious crowd anxiety.
Catering to a More Multicultural Senior Population Than Ever Before
We’ve established that the population is aging, but there is another demographic trend amongst future seniors that will be important to pay attention to. Not only is North America’s population getting older, but it is also getting more multicultural. That includes the aging population. Between 2018 and 2060, the share of the elderly population in America that is non-Hispanic white is projected to drop from 77% to 55%.
This will certainly change senior care, as it will require workers that speak more languages and with strong cross-cultural communication. For any technology that is implemented by organizations geared towards seniors, a demographic shift like this has to be taken into consideration.
There are several factors here to think of. The first and most important is language. If you implement a tech solution where English is the only language enabled, you will be isolating a significant percentage of the senior demographic. It is important to have solutions that are capable of alternating languages to fit users’ preferences.
The second factor to consider here is the family caregiving and personal preferences of different cultures. Aging is looked at and handled differently by every culture around the world, with some key differences in each way. This will make the job of healthcare professionals more complex because they will need to be prepared for a more diverse patient base and the unique values and attitudes towards aging, healthcare, and technology that comes with that.
What this means is that flexibility will be an important component of any virtual tool that will be used in senior care. With QLess, flexibility is a big element of the platform’s appeal. There are two core components that make QLess an ideal tool for the multicultural future of senior care.
One of the standout aspects of the QLess platform is that it has language options. QLess accommodates a wide range of different languages, making it accessible to people of all backgrounds. QLess also doesn’t need to be used by all customers. QLess has features that enable offices to run QLess lines and non-QLess lines. This means patients that don’t want to use this tool don’t have to, and it won’t hamstring the efficiency of a healthcare practice.
Flexibility and customization are important for any virtual tool with an increasingly diverse aging population. This is the case with the QLess patient scheduling system.
The senior healthcare market is changing rapidly. There are several core things causing monumental shifts in this sector. Some of the biggest that come to mind are a rapidly aging population, increasing diversity amongst seniors, a pandemic that drastically impacted senior living, and a growing cohort of seniors that use technology. These changes are dramatic and point toward a future of senior care that looks very different from our present. Technology will be a big part of this future.
Digital transformation and patient-facing software aren’t something that should be left out of senior care. The modern senior isn’t the tech-avoidant, never-adopter that some think. Today’s elderly population is more than likely using the internet and on a smartphone, just like the rest of the population. Implementing tools that make their healthcare journey smoother and more efficient is important, and seniors are more than capable of using them.
QLess is a healthcare solution that can transform several aspects of senior care. As a digital queue management system and virtual appointment scheduling system, it is an all-in-one virtual solution that enables a smoother waiting process and simplified 24/7 appointment booking. This mobile-friendly solution aligns with the digital habits of modern seniors and contributes to an improved patient experience in an increasingly competitive senior care market.