Increase e-health’s appeal by promoting benefits

A video link with the public health nurse or sending your blood sugar or blood oxygen level to your general practitioner via the internet: Older people are more likely to make use of e-health if they can see the advantages of this, or are already aware of them. This has emerged from research conducted at the Netherlands Institute for Health Services Research (NIVEL). The researchers have published their findings in the journal BMC Health Services Research.

Older people are generally open-minded about e-health. Around 25% of them will have problems with it because they have never used the internet or because they believe this will be very difficult. E-health will probably be accepted more readily if people are informed about its advantages, and if they can practice using e-health applications. NIVEL researcher Anke de Veer: “You have to make it appealing by showing them how it works and giving them the opportunity to try it out, so they can see how easy it is to use and that it offers them real benefits. Particularly people with a lower educational level and those with no internet experience should be given special attention.”
In the future, an increasing number of older people will be asked to accept health care delivered through the internet. An example of this is telecare, which allows health care professionals to connect with patients via an internet video link. The question is whether older people are interested in these e-health applications. Would they be willing to use them? Researchers at NIVEL attempted to gain insight into the intentions of people aged 57 and older with regard to using these applications.
Anke de Veer: “The majority of those who will probably have to deal with e-health applications in the near future expect them to be easy to use. They also expect that e-health will make it easier to contact health care professionals and will also make it easier for them to live independently for longer. What people were most in doubt about was whether contact via the internet is a pleasant way to interact, and whether the applications work well.”
Research questions
The researchers looked at when people would be willing to use e-health. The focus was on whether they expected e-health to help them, how easy they thought it would be to use the e-health applications, their internet skills, and the beliefs of those around them. For the study, a random sample was drawn from NIVEL's Health Care Consumer Panel, and more than a thousand people between the ages of 57 and 77 filled out a questionnaire. NIVEL uses this panel to collect information among the Dutch population about their opinions on and experiences with the health care sector. Nowadays, the panel is made up of nearly 12,000 people aged 18 and older.

Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport