Older Americans Use Digital MSK Care More Frequently Than Younger Generations

New clinical study demonstrates significantly higher digital physical therapy engagement and completion among Gen Xers, working-age baby boomers, and retirees, as compared to Gen Zers and millennials.

Frontiers in Digital Health recently published a longitudinal study designed to evaluate digital musculoskeletal (MSK) program usage and outcomes by generation. The study included 41,241 adults spanning the Gen Z, millennial, Gen X, baby boomer, and silent generations who had had MSK pain for 12 or more weeks and who took part in Hinge Health’s Digital Musculoskeletal Clinic.

All generations demonstrated consistently high completion rates and experienced significant MSK pain reduction. The older generations, including Gen Xers, working-age baby boomers, and retirees, were the most active and had the highest program completion rates. Retirees completed 19 more exercise therapy sessions, accessed 11 more articles, and sent five more messages to their clinical team of health coaches and PTs, as compared to Gen Zers and millennials.

Hinge Health chief medical officer, Dr. Jeffrey Krauss, said, “In 2018, 134.5 million Americans reported MSK conditions, with older adults experiencing higher prevalence and limitations due to these conditions, compared to younger adults. This study debunks a myth that older populations don’t actively engage in digital care. These findings are consistent with other studies showing that older adults who choose to use a digital MSK program are actually even more engaged than younger adults. It’s clear that programs like Hinge Health hold promise for the growing population of older adults with chronic MSK pain.”

The reasons why participating older adults embrace the digital MSK program are diverse. Many members of older generations may appreciate that Hinge Health enables them to manage their needs themselves and at home. This is particularly important for people with mobility, transportation, or care-access challenges. Support and interaction with Hinge Health’s comprehensive care team of health coaches, physical therapists, and other clinicians encourage engagement and help members form long-lasting exercise habits. Another significant finding from the study was that the older generation was associated with higher rates of anxiety improvement at 12 weeks, compared to Gen Zers and millennials. One possible explanation is that Hinge Health focuses on MSK-related issues like fall prevention and addresses anxiety associated with fall-related concerns.

Hinge Health Vice President of Medicare Austin Weaver said, “This is the first study that analyzes the Medicare population’s use of digital MSK programs. It demonstrates that Hinge Health’s program is thoughtfully designed to overcome digital challenges across demographics. Hinge Health’s comprehensive clinical care team of physical therapists, physicians, and health coaches have resources to support older adults with comorbidities.” Hinge Health is available to over half-a-million seniors, and demand continues to grow. The reductions in pain and anxiety not only help lower healthcare costs but also improve a number of Star Rating measures, an important factor in Hinge Health’s work with its Medicare partners.