Seniors Likely to Find Medicare Health Web Site Unusable

Study of computer-savvy seniors shows the site is difficult to use and navigate

TUESDAY, Aug. 19 (HealthDay News) -- Even older adults with computer skills may have difficulty using the Web site to determine eligibility for services and enroll in a drug plan, according to a research letter published in the Aug. 20 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Sara J. Czaja, Ph.D., of the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, and colleagues studied 112 English-speaking subjects aged 50 and older who were cognitively normal, had computer experience, and were free of depressive symptoms or severe visual or hearing impairments. All of the subjects were required to use the Web site and provide written reports.

The researchers found that 77 (68.8 percent) of the subjects could not specify all eligibility criteria for home health services. They also found that most subjects were unable to choose the correct home health agency (80.4 percent), execute computation procedures needed for making a plan enrollment decision (83.9 percent), or select a drug plan (72.3 percent).

"Participants also reported problems navigating within the Web site and locating information," the authors conclude. "Although the sample was relatively small and restricted to people aged 50 years or more, it was diverse and larger than samples included in most usability studies. It is likely that persons with less computer experience would have even greater difficulty. To ensure that electronic health tools reach their full potential, broad and inclusive input from consumers should serve as the basis for design."

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