Health Services Research & Development

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Portz JD, Fruhauf C, Bull S, Boxer RS, Bekelman DB, Casillas A, Gleason K, Bayliss EA. "Call a Teenager… That's What I Do!" - Grandchildren Help Older Adults Use New Technologies: Qualitative Study. JMIR aging. 2019 Jun 6; 2(1):e13713.
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Abstract: BACKGROUND: Although family technical support seems intuitive, there is very little research exploring this topic. OBJECTIVE: The objective of this study was to conduct a subanalysis of data collected from a large-scale qualitative project regarding older adults'' experiences in using health information technology. Specifically, the subanalysis explored older adults'' experiences with technology support from family members to inform strategies for promoting older adults'' engagement with new health technologies. Although the primary analysis of the original study was theoretically driven, this paper reports results from an inductive, open-coding analysis. METHODS: This is a subanalysis of a major code identified unexpectedly from a qualitative study investigating older adults'' use experience of a widespread health technology, the patient portal. A total of 24 older patients (=65 years) with multiple chronic conditions (Charlson Comorbidity Index >2) participated in focus groups conducted at the patients'' primary clinic. While conducting the primary theoretically driven analysis, coders utilized an open-coding approach to ensure important ideas not reflected in the theoretical code book were captured. Open coding resulted in 1 code: family support. This subanalysis further categorized family support by who provided tech support, how tech support was offered, and the opinions of older participants about receiving family tech support. RESULTS: The participants were not specifically asked about family support, yet themes around family assistance and encouragement for technology emerged from every focus group. Participants repeatedly mentioned that they called their grandchildren and adult children if they needed help with technology. Participants also reported that family members experienced difficulty when teaching technology use. Family members struggled to explain simple technology tasks and were frustrated by the slow teaching process. CONCLUSIONS: The results suggest that older adults ask their family members, particularly grandchildren, to support them in the use of new technologies. However, family may experience difficulties in providing this support. Older adults will be increasingly expected to use health technologies, and family members may help with tech support. Providers and health systems should consider potential family support and engagement strategies to foster adoption and use among older patients.