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Zhang, Y., Lee, E. W. J., & Teo, W.-P. (2023). Health-seeking behavior and its associated technology use: Interview study among community-dwelling older adults. JMIR Aging, 6, Article e43709. https://doi.org/10.2196/43709
Understanding older people’s health-seeking behavior (HSB) is crucial for uncovering their health needs and priorities and developing appropriate policies to address them and avert their disease progression. Technologies play an active role in our daily lives and have been incorporated into health activities to support the older population and facilitate their HSB. However, previous studies of HSB have mainly focused on behaviors during illness, and there are limited studies on how technologies have been used in older people’s health-seeking activities.
This study aimed to investigate HSB and the associated technology use among the older population, ultimately proposing implications for practice to address their unmet health needs.
This paper presents partial data from a large qualitative study, which has been approved by the institutional review board and used a phenomenological approach. Semistructured interviews were conducted between April 2022 and July 2022, either via Zoom (Zoom Video Communications Inc) or face-to-face sessions. Inclusion criteria were being aged ≥50 years, long-term residence in Singapore, and being able to speak English or Mandarin. The interviews were manually transcribed verbatim, and thematic analysis was performed, with the individual as the unit of analysis to understand the patterns of behaviors.
In total, 15 interviews were conducted to reach thematic saturation. We identified 5 main consequences of HSB, which were aligned with the original HSB model. Regarding technology use in health seeking, 4 themes were extracted: the most widely used digital technologies are the mobile health apps and wearable devices with the associated wellness programs launched by the government and local companies, and they have the potential to enhance health communication, promote health maintenance, and increase access to health services; information communication technologies and social media, though not primarily designed for health purposes, play a substantial role in easing the process of seeking health information and managing symptoms. Although the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in some alterations to older adults’ well-being, it has catalyzed the adoption of telehealth as a complement to access health care services, and older adults have different considerations when selecting technologies to facilitate their health seeking and fulfill their health needs. Moreover, 4 archetypes were proposed based on our findings and the insights gained from our participants’ observations in their social networks. These findings led to several implications for practice regarding health communication and promotion, health education, technology design and improvement, telemonitoring service implementation, and solutions to address the needs of each proposed archetype.
Unlike the commonly held belief that older adults resist technologies and lack technological proficiency, our findings showed that technologies could play a promising role in facilitating older adults’ health seeking. Our findings have implications for the design and implementation of health services and policies.
National Institute of Education, Singapore
Ministry of Education, Singapore
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