Growing number of seniors use internet to manage healthcare

Internet use among older adults has consistently risen over the last few years, and the results of a new study suggest that they're logging on to help them with healthy aging. The research, conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of Optum Institute, found the majority of seniors use the internet to manage their health and stay in contact with doctors, according to the Medicare NewsGroup.

The findings were based on a survey of 2,870 older adults, and despite the prevalence of internet use among seniors, some experts were surprised that those 65 and older head online for health issues. To Optum Institute vice president Carol Simon, however, these results are indicative of a growing trend of older adults wanting to be more actively engaged in their health.

The study also revealed some ways older adults would like to incorporate technology, the internet in particular, into their healthcare regimen. Specifically, about 60 percent of consumers over 65 said they would like email reminders for their appointments. Additionally, 57 percent said they wanted to communicate online with their physicians.

It's also important for doctors to be interested in using the internet to talk to their elderly patients. According to a 2009 study, if physicians are more enthusiastic about using online communication, their older patients tend to follow suit.

The results should signal to healthcare providers that older adults' expectations of medical care are shifting. They should take note of this fact especially in light of findings from the Pew Research Center this year that found, for the first time ever, that more than half of seniors are using the internet on a regular basis.