Modern Aging: Ask for Answers
This week’s Modern Aging blog post comes from an American medical illustrator with a passion to improve health communication for elderly through visual media. Please read about the digital tool she is developing:
“I am excited to share with you an idea I have been developing as a social innovation for the elderly in health care. Today I will tell you about myself, and why I am considering the health needs of the elderly in Sweden. I will introduce the problem needing attention and how I propose to tackle it. Finally, I will let you know how you can connect with me if you would like to be part of this dialogue!
So who am I, and what brought me to Sweden? Well, my name is Anneliese, and I am an American citizen with Swedish heritage from both sides of my family. In 2010 I traveled to the “motherland” to see where my farmor, and my mormors parents came from. While visiting, I bonded with new friends and distant relatives, but visiting with relatives from my grandparent’s generation over fika was particularly special for me. During that trip I decided I wanted to come back to Sweden to study and experience more of Swedish society.
While back in the US making plans to return to Sweden, I was witness to the failing health and death of my mormor, Anna, and morfar, Winston. Winston lost his life, at 93 years of age, as a result of Alzheimer’s. While Anna, who suffered from morbidities common in the elderly, died only a few months after at 91 years. These experiences with my own family helped me to realize many of the challenges facing our aging global population. Now, I look to apply my education, work experience and research to help address these challenges.
My recent research has focused on the communications between patients and their care providers. The clinical setting can present many communication barriers, including a power dynamic between the patient, with limited knowledge, and the care provider, with greater knowledge. For the elderly, dementia, learning style, literacy and language skills can also contribute to communication barriers they face when determining their health needs. Further, many elderly patients have an increased number of health appointments where they might struggle to remember what to ask their care provider, or may not be aware of the proper questions to ask. Additionally, they will need to remember details communicated to them after an appointment. If not recorded, these details can be easily forgotten. My solution is simple, “Ask for Answers.”
Ask for Answers is a media based tool (web/app), which aims to arm the aging population with the questions they should have available when visiting a health provider. The questions target their specific communication needs and are broken down by medical specialties to be more effective. Patients can use the electronic interface to access their questions, type answers, exchange email with the provider, record audio of answers – which can then be transcribed, and even take photos of drawings or notes. The information would then be accessible later when the patient may have trouble recalling details from the appointment, or need to share them with another care provider.
Ask for Answers is centered on improving health communications between care providers and the elderly. It is a simple, user-friendly tool that focuses on enabling and empowering aging patients to better manage their health. With the aid of Ask for Answers, patient knowledge and satisfaction may increase, potentially resulting in improved health outcomes.”
Written by Anneliese Lilienthal