Empathy is not just a “nice to have” in healthcare—it has been shown to have strong positive effects on health outcomes. Additional research shows that empathy and compassion are associated with: 

  • Better adherence to medications 
  • Decreased malpractice cases 
  • Fewer healthcare mistakes 
  • Increased patient satisfaction 

Empathy is especially important when caring for the aging population. As people grow older, their needs increase. They become increasingly vulnerable, and it can be difficult or uncomfortable to explain their needs. They may even hesitate to explain symptoms to avoid being a burden on caregivers.  

As technology continues to grow as an option to provide care to the elderly, it’s important to foster empathy through the screen. Creating empathy through technology is certainly challenging, but for age-tech to succeed, it’s essential.  

How to create empathy through technology for the aging population

1. Provide telehealth options connecting older patients to their healthcare providers. 

Although it is harder to give patients the sense of personal care through technology, there’s also a unique opportunity for them to be more connected to their healthcare providers than ever before. Technology can maintain and improve the relationship between clinicians and patients. 

Where patients did not have easy access to their healthcare providers in the past, now, they have healthcare technology to foster connectedness. Real-time chats allow patients to ask their doctor a question, ask for a refill, or so many more, all from the comfort of their own home.  

Virtual appointments and consultations, portals giving access to health data, and group chats for sharing information all create connections. 

2. Think about empathy beyond the typical doctor-patient relationship. 

Although empathy through technology takes extra effort and thought, if done correctly, it may actually allow providers to be more empathetic. Technology transforms the typical doctor-patient relationship. 

“We need to make ourselves available to them in ways that are perhaps sometimes not always possible when we’re in the hospital setting,” says Kathy Sienko, OBE, the chief nurse at King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Center. “Giving them access to information, incorporating online information and other sources of data into the way that we deliver care, in ways that we have not been able to do before, or haven’t been motivated to do before.” 

Technology allows providers to go beyond the typical patient-doctor relationship. Sharing increased information during times of illness, uncertainty, and aging is a powerful way for doctors to demonstrate empathy for patients and their families. 

3. Expand your perception of empathy. 

Empathy is usually thought of as an understanding between two people, but empathy can go far beyond doctor and patient. An organization can embody empathy and be embedded within the patient experience. 

Empathy can be as simple as designing apps that ease the stress of booking appointments. The “intersection between empathy and innovation and how they should be deeply intertwined to be maximally effective,” says Adrienne Boissy, MD, MA, chief experience officer at the Cleveland Clinic. “The experience of care, what does that need to feel like and how can we redesign things to make people feel cared about, and valued, and known, by an organization?”  

Especially when it comes to senior populations, who might have more trouble accessing technology, the user experience is a priority. Technology can drastically improve their healthcare. However, if it’s too challenging to use, then that care experience is not empathetic and ineffective.  

4. Empathy for clinicians helps patients. 

The same healthcare tools that can be used for elderly patients can also be used to benefit clinicians. This is especially important, because clinician burnout is on the rise. Caregiver burnout leads to mental and physical health problems. 

“In the face of the unprecedented challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic, the nation must acknowledge the toll that the crisis is taking on the well-being of clinicians,” writes the National Academy of Medicine. “Health care workers need support as they navigate the difficult challenges of the current moment and throughout the long-term effects of COVID-19 on clinicians.” 

Technology can provide empathetic support for clinicians. For example, virtual communication allows clinicians to connect with others in their field experiencing the same struggles. Wellness tools, such as Headspace, benefit the mental health of clinicians.  

Also, allowing clinicians to provide telehealth helps them avoid burnout by saving them time. On average, physicians who use telemedicine reduce visit times by about 20 percent. This gives them more time throughout their day and alleviates stress. 

When clinicians are less burned out, they are better able to offer empathetic care and drive positive health outcomes for the elderly population. 

Technology improves older patient and clinician health

Rather than thinking of how challenging it is to be empathetic via technology, think of virtual healthcare as the ultimate tool. Our Ōmcare Home Health Hub® can help you provide an empathetic healthcare experience for the older generation. It allows an easy way to ensure patients are adherent with their medications and speak with providers in real-time. Reach out to Ōmcare to learn more today!