Singapore survey finds elderly unreceptive to digital health services

By | July 9, 2021

A study by the Singapore Eye Research Institute found low acceptance of digital health services among the elderly.

Supported by the National Medical Research Council, the SERI study aimed to determine COVID-19-related awareness, knowledge, impact and preparedness among elderly Asians. In the process, the study also evaluated acceptance toward digital health services amid the pandemic.

WHAT IT’S ABOUT

Held during Singapore’s lockdown period from 7 April till 1 June 2020, participants comprised 523 citizens from Singapore’s three major ethnic groups – Chinese, Indians, and Malays.

Multivariable logistic regression models were performed to evaluate the associations between demographic, socio-economic, lifestyle, and systemic factors, with COVID-19 awareness, knowledge, preparedness, well-being and digital health service acceptance.

The study found that 98.1% of participants had not used digital health services prior to the pandemic. Although 52.2% of participants felt these services could help to reduce non-essential contact, 77.8% were uncomfortable with artificial intelligence software interpreting their medical results and providing automatic advice.

WHY IT MATTERS

With over half of the participants being unreceptive toward digital healthcare services and management, the survey highlights the need to improve digital health acceptance and adoption among the elderly population in Singapore, as the world approaches a post-pandemic new normal.

THE LARGER CONTEXT

Similar to other countries around the world, the elderly are among the least technologically savvy group in Singapore. According to a 2019 survey by the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA), 58% of residents above 60 years old were internet users compared to 89% for all residents.

In an effort to help the elderly enhance their digital literacy levels, the IMDA launched the Senior Go Digital initiative in May 2020. The programme equips the elderly with knowledge on how to use digital tools for basic communication like video calls, how to access government digital services, make e-payments and perform internet banking.

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ON THE RECORD

“We can do more research on the barriers towards technological adoption… By analysing the statistics and understanding the elderly’s experience and what they need, the better we can tailor our solutions,” said Professor Josip Car, director of the Centre for Population Health Sciences at Nanyang Technological University’s Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine, in a quote to The Straits Times.

“It would be arrogant for us to assume that just because something works for a particular demography, technology or environment, it works for everything and everyone,” he added.

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