Categorized | Technology

Digital health startups: Don’t overlook the senior market

A 2016 report by Gust found that healthcare ranks third in top startup industries, just behind consumer products and services and Internet web services. Healthcare startups span health IT, telehealth, diagnostics, genetics, consumer facing markets like wearables and wellness, and target diverse audiences. More often than not, seniors don’t fall into the target market for healthcare startups. Why, when they’re the group that would benefit most from their services?

Let’s narrow the discussion down to consumer health startups. What are their goals?

Many of these early stage companies encourage people take a hands-on approach to managing their health. Often, these companies target people who are managing a chronic illness like diabetes or heart disease. For instance, the “Diabetes in Check” app from Everyday Health allows users to track their carbohydrate and nutrition intake and blood glucose levels, and offers tips on what to eat and how to get active, with a goal of inspiring better disease management.

Other startups are focused on promoting a healthy and fit lifestyle among users. Consider products and services like fitness trackers, food tracking apps and smart scales that help users keep tabs on their own diet and exercise. Such products and services often encourage users to set goals ranging from weight loss to calorie intake. This type of product is typically designed for a younger demographic. In fact, a study by PriceWaterhouseCooper found that half of consumers using a health wearable are between 18-34 years old, likely because this demographic is overall more health and fitness conscious than older generations. Millennials care about eating right and exercising more than GenXers and Baby Boomers, according to Aetna.

Healthcare businesses with the goal of making healthcare more accessible are also on the rise. Take Zoc Doc and One Medical for example, which allow users to find a doctor in their area via an app and schedule an appointment, no referral necessary. These types of services are generally geared towards people living in metro areas, where there are multiple doctor’s offices a stone’s throw away. Keep in mind that metro areas are becoming increasingly more populated with millennials.

Why aren’t these goals aligned for seniors?

The healthcare startup boom is heavily a result of the merge between technology and health. Many tech companies assume the learning curve for seniors is still a large obstacle, and they aren’t totally wrong. Consider device adoption. About 40 percent of adults over 50 own a smartphone, and only 11 percent of this group own a wearable device, according to AARP research. Therefore, it’s easy to understand that health technologies companies don’t see seniors as likely consumers. They may also underestimate the ability for senior-care companies to adopt new technology, which may cause them to overlook potential partners. This should not be the case, considering the broad spectrum of benefits technology can offer to seniors.

Take smart home systems for example, which offer motion sensors, intercom systems, connected thermostats and more. If a smart home were to partner with a senior living facility, staff could more easily communicate with members and monitor their well-being. Passive monitoring sensor systems can “learn” a person’s daily patterns and alert facility staff of abnormal changes in behavior or activity, and reduce health and safety risks present when seniors are alone.

Additionally, the companies focused on making healthcare more accessible bring a non-traditional approach to healthcare and doctor’s visits. Older generations are accustomed to traditional doctor’s visits and prefer to see a physician with whom they’re familiar. It’s not easy to convince seniors to adopt new technology and go about healthcare differently than they’ve been doing their whole lives. In addition, considering these services are established in metro areas, they may not even be a realistic option for seniors in suburbs or rural locations.

Health startups are missing a huge opportunity with the senior population

Pew Research found that about 10,000 people in the United States turn 65 each day; one in five Americans will be 65 or older by 2030. Although the senior population continues to grow, there are not enough companies working to help keep them healthy and active longer, since health startups so often overlook them as a viable target market.

As the population ages, future seniors will be more demanding about their care. The currently market of health startups targeting seniors is fragmented and low tech, so there is plenty of opportunity to improve inefficiencies. Additionally, since seniors require more active daily management of their health, they may be the demographic that would benefit most from what these startups offer.

In order to address the market, healthcare startups must clearly demonstrate the need and benefits for seniors, and make the product or service easy to adopt to combat the tech learning curve. Once this is achieved, early stage healthcare companies have a huge opportunity to target this market and keep seniors healthy longer.

Photo: Ridofranz, Getty Images

Article source: http://medcitynews.com/2017/06/digital-health-startups-dont-overlook-senior-market/

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