A new study by Deft Research uncovers how Medicare members use digital health tools provided by their insurers, their providers, and other third parties to manage their health and navigate their coverage.

Although seniors enrolled in Original Medicare enjoy social media and online shopping, a new study finds they aren’t comfortable using digital technology to manage their health and insurance.

The new Medicare Digital Health Tools Study, conducted by Deft Research, was administered in June 2021. More than 3,500 seniors responded to the study including:

  • 1,822 seniors with a 2021 Medicare Advantage (MA) plan
  • 1,289 seniors with a 2021 MedSupp plan
  • 397 in Original Medicare Only for 2021

The research is meant to better understand the general online behavior of seniors and which seniors may be amendable to using digital health tools.

Here are three findings from the report:

Members like to shop online but are leery of going digital to manage their health: Most seniors use online banking tools and a third manage other forms of insurance, such as auto and homeowners’ insurance, online. In addition, 60 percent shop online to purchase goods. Despite this high use of online activity, most seniors are currently not very comfortable using digital technology to manage their health and insurance. Only about 40 percent would be highly comfortable even shopping for coverage online.

Trust is a barrier to using patient portals: Nearly three‐quarters of MA members are aware that their carriers offer an online member portal, while more than 60 percent are aware of patient portals set up by their providers. Of those who are aware, about 90 percent have signed up for a portal account. Trust is a barrier among those who have not signed up to use the portals as these seniors are more hesitant to manage any aspects of their health online. They may lack trust in the ability of the portals to meet their informational or logistical needs, they may not trust that these tools are easy to use, or they may not trust that their information will remain secure.

Aggregator sites have room for improvement: When it comes to shopping online, seniors rely on Medicare.gov. Awareness of specific aggregator sites is low. The survey found that only 15 percent of seniors have heard of one. Utilization also lags. Only about three percent of online shoppers’ report using one the last time they searched for coverage. Nearly half of all aggregator site users reported that the sites provide little to no help, likely because only a third engaged with an agent. When shoppers were connected with agents, they tended to find the sites much more helpful. Deft researchers said this is probably because they spoke to a knowledgeable professional, as opposed to the agent convincing them of the website’s usefulness.

To learn more about the complete study findings, click here.