Students research e-health products for the elderly

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A summer research project by Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University students into local attitudes towards e-health products and services has led to a larger project that could make significant contributions to the field of ageing research in China.

Undergraduate students from International Business School Suzhou and the Department of Mathematical Sciences conducted one-to-one interviews and focus groups with local people as part of a Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship project. SURF provides funding for students to conduct the kind of research projects usually only done by postgraduate students.

Local people of different ages were given demonstrations of e-health products and services, and asked to give their opinions regarding price, quality and ease of use.

E-health products are those that allow people to monitor their own health – for example blood pressure, body fat, and blood sugar levels. These devices are often integrated with mobile phone apps to allow users to easily track their health level. E-health services include online health information and services for booking doctor appointments.

The reactions of the elderly were of particular interest to researchers as they are typically viewed as late adopters of new technology.

“The elderly think [e-health products] are expensive and not easy to use,” said Yiqing Shi, one of the student researchers. “They think their children could buy the products for them, but they themselves wouldn’t buy them.”

The research showed older people tend to focus more on ease of use, whereas younger people take price more seriously, and the older men tested were more receptive to the technology than older women.

A better understanding of older people’s attitudes towards e-health products and services would be a boon to healthcare companies attempting to appeal to the ‘silver market’ and public policy makers alike, particularly in China where research has been scarce.

Now the project is expanding with postgraduate students participating for their dissertations, and undergraduates continuing the work for their final year projects. The next focus groups will test a larger number of subjects and include middle-aged people to examine generational differences in more detail.

“We didn’t test middle-aged people during the summer because time was limited,” said Yiqing Shi. “Also, we will alter the questions slightly, and apply what we’ve learned about qualitative methods from our classes this semester.”

The project is a collaboration between IBSS and the Department of Public Health, and overseen by XJTLU’s new Research Institute into Ageing and Society, led by Professor Florian Kohlbacher.

RIAS is spearheading various research projects and on 14 - 15 December 2015 will host the first XJTLU research symposium on ageing and society, bringing together national and international experts on ageing, health and society from a variety of disciplines to discuss their latest research, exchange ideas and hopefully spark new research collaborations.

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