Personal Health Information Management Among Healthy Older Adults: Varying Needs And Approaches

Abstract [from journal]

Objective: With age, older adults experience a greater number of chronic diseases and medical visits, and an increased need to manage their health information. Technological advances in consumer health information technologies (HITs) help patients gather, track, and organize their health information within and outside of clinical settings. However, HITs have not focused on the needs of older adults and their caregivers. The goal of the SOARING (Studying Older Adults and Researching their Information Needs and Goals) Project was to understand older adult personal health information management (PHIM) needs and practices to inform the design of HITs that support older adults.

Materials and methods: Drawing on the Work System Model, we took an ecological approach to investigate PHIM needs and practices of older adults in different residential settings. We conducted in-depth interviews and surveys with adults 60 years of age and older.

Results: We performed on-site in-person interview sessions with 88 generally healthy older adults in various settings including independent housing, retirement communities, assisted living, and homelessness. Our analysis revealed 5 key PHIM activities that older adults engage in: seeking, tracking, organizing, sharing health information, and emergency planning. We identified 3 major themes influencing older adults' practice of PHIM: (1) older adults are most concerned with maintaining health and preventing illness, (2) older adults frequently involve others in PHIM activities, and (3) older adults' approach to PHIM is situational and context-dependent.

Discussion: Older adults' approaches to PHIM are dynamic and sensitive to changes in health, social networks, personal habits, motivations, and goals.

Conclusions: PHIM tools that meet the needs of older adults should accommodate the dynamic nature of aging and variations in individual, organizational, and social contexts.