Seniors at a Disadvantage When Purchasing Prescription Drugs Online

A recent national survey done by the Kaiser Family Foundation in association with Princeton Survey Research Associates (PSRA) discovered that the digital world is still divided when it comes to seniors purchasing prescription drugs online.

The study found that approximately 30 percent of seniors (in this article, we define seniors as aged 65 and older) have used the Internet. However, 70% of their younger, seemingly more Net-savvy counterparts (50-64 year olds) are surfing the Net.

The dramatic differences between the two groups indicate that the next generation of seniors will be more able to make more informed online prescription drug choices, and that online sources of pharmaceutical information may become more important as these 50-64 year olds age. Currently, only 21% of seniors have, at one point in time, viewed an Internet site for health information, whereas 53% of their 50-64 year old counterparts have done the same.

The survey also found a link between senior’s annual household income and their propensity to go online searching for health information: only 15% of seniors in the $20,000 a year or less income bracket have searched the Web, as opposed to 40% of the $20,000-49,000 income earners in the same age group, or 65% of the $50,000 and over bracket. Unfortunately, most of the $20,000 a year or less seniors are also on Medicare (64%).

Prescription drugs online have become, in the past several years, one of the top health care topics searched, with 13% of all seniors having researched pharmaceuticals at one time or another. Only 5% of seniors, however, say that they have researched drug costs online, with the same number stating they’ve purchased prescription drugs online.

With the new Medicare reforms that enable the use of discount drug cards, websites such as the federal Medicare.gov have become crucial comparison methods for seniors looking to save money. And yet, less than 1% of seniors’ doctors have recommended prescription drug websites to their clients, but more than half of the seniors participating in the survey have received emails from pharmaceutical companies that advertise medicines, nutritional therapies, supplements or other health related items.

Purchasing prescription drugs online shouldn’t be a hassle for seniors, and yet when looking at these statistics, it’s fairly evident the digital divide still exists; at it’s most disproportionate the tools created to help the most disadvantaged are not being used. Even though more than 30% of seniors have stated that the Internet is something they “wouldn’t want to do without”, and more than half feel the Internet keeps them in touch with loved ones, they are still not using the Internet to research prescription drugs online – or as much as they could be.

Hopefully, with this new research and increased awareness from those who support people over the age of 65, seniors can start researching, asking questions about and purchasing prescription drugs online with little to no hassle or headache.

Copyright © Stephen C. Dayton 2005