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Will baby boomers drive health IT?

50-somethings visit Web health sites regularly, we are a natural constituency for Electronic Health Records (EHRs), and things like remote diagnosis don't faze us. But there is a bottom line. Everything comes back to privacy.
Written by Dana Blankenhorn, Inactive on

The AARP spent a little of its insurance profit recently putting on some dinners with consultant Michael Rogers and a bunch of 50-somethings, to talk about technology, then analyzing and publishing the results.

Surprise, the AARP constituency or "market demographic" likes technology. Especially health IT.

Folks in their 50s today were born in the 1950s. (Full disclosure. I'm right in the heart of this group. I hit my double-nickel birthday next month.)

Unlike the Woodstock Generation, most of us came of age in the era of the Apple II. A disproportionate number of us probably made our careers in computing. So the highly-educated among us have a natural affinity for tech, an acceptance of its quirks, and a desire to embrace it.

One thread that ran through all the discussions was a high demand for privacy and security, something health IT has been striving for since the 1990s HIPAA law was enacted. Thus the most important member of NCHIT David Blumenthal's team may be his chief privacy officer.

If privacy and security are assured, with data breaches treated as theft and thieves given some assurance that jail time will follow their crimes, then boomers are ready to embrace all sorts of things, even implantable chips, according to Rogers' dinner guests.

Already, 50-somethings visit Web health sites regularly, we are a natural constituency for Electronic Health Records (EHRs), and things like remote diagnosis don't faze us.

But for most of us there is a bottom line.

“Everything comes back to privacy,” said one New Yorker. “We grew up reading 1984 and Brave New World. I don’t know if kids in high school even have to read these anymore. 1984 sounds like a history book. But it’s still valid — those futuristic environments in which everything is known and controlled.”

Is that your bottom line, or did the AARP just get together a dinner or wealthy boomer elitists to push their views on the rest of you?

And to answer the New Yorker's question. Both my kids read 1984 in high school. But Huxley's Brave New World, in which people are classed as alphas, betas or gammas and given different lives, along with a daily dose of mind-altering soma, has mostly gone from the curriculum.

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