As digital tools empower consumers to take control of the monitoring and management of their health and wellness, insurers and healthcare organizations can’t afford to ignore a massive segment of the healthcare market: baby boomers.

Healthcare programs are rapidly expanding. Medicare, in particular, will service 18% of the U.S. population by the year 2030 (those 65 and older), which presents a golden opportunity for payers to expand their reach into a core market. The trick is having the right approach to digital engagement.

Sophisticated Aging

Despite the popular conceptions of a tech-averse senior demographic, the 65+ population has taken to digital integration with vigor — in the past year, internet usage among seniors rose from 24 million to 26 million, and by 2018, 70% will have adopted the internet into their daily lives.

Seniors are especially cognizant of technology’s potential to support the management of their care. In particular, they value the access to health-related information and the improvement of health outcomes that technology provides, while cost savings are less of a priority. Indeed, 62% of seniors see technology as important to health management because of its ability to bolster their understanding of conditions and medications — only 7% cite cost savings as a key benefit of technology.

And their rates of digital adoption are impressive, extending into territory more closely associated with Generation X and millennial consumers: 50% of U.S. seniors are projected to own smartphones by 2017, and 43% of Medicare members who own mobile phones already text regularly.

Mobilizing Care

In response to these promising trends, healthcare industry players have invested in mobile capabilities to expand seniors’ access to care. For example, industry giant Humana recently partnered with real-time patient management solutions provider AMC Health to launch a post-discharge Telehealth program for Medicare Advantage members. The program will put Medicare Advantage members at risk for readmission in contact with doctors through weekly Interactive Voice Response (IVR) calls to discuss their current care and needs.

There has also been an emphasis on promoting healthy lifestyles, as with AvMed’s introduction of Walkadoo, an activity-tracking health and wellness app, to its Medicare Advantage members. Finally, companies are striving to improve medication adherence — OptumRx is piloting the My Medication Reminder Text Messaging program, which has already resulted in a 11% increase in medication adherence and average annual cost savings per member of $724.

Target Technologies

For those within the 65-75 age group, tablets are the device of choice, and present an opportunity for healthcare organizations to leverage digital engagement — Accountable Care Organization Hackensack Alliance launched a tablet program designed to reduce Medicare member readmissions, which yielded average readmission rates of 8%, compared to the control group’s 28%.

But before honing in on specific devices, organizations should first ensure that their web experience is seamless, especially considering that older adults are the fastest-growing segment of the web-using population — 73% of Medicare members regularly search the internet, and 91% use email frequently.

Leading the charge, Blue Cross Blue Shield launched “BCBS Marketplace” this past April, which allows retirees in over 45 states to shop for Medicare plans via a private exchange platform. Designed to be simple and intuitive, these exchanges deliver a “personalized shopping experience” similar to platforms like Amazon or Orbitz.

To meet the needs of this swiftly expanding population, payers and providers must make digital a foundational pillar of their engagement strategy — not only can it deliver added value to an increasingly digitally-savvy senior segment, it can improve the viability of an Accountable Care Organization (ACO) model by improving the quality of life for patients and reducing costs for payers and providers.