Is Generation Gap Slowing mHealth Adoption in Clinical Research?

Generation Xers and Millennials look at technology differently, says Jeri Burr, a program director at the University of Utah. “These generational differences affect everyone,” she notes.

Take a look at mHealth adoption in the clinical trial industry. While hesitant to lay too much blame on a tech generation gap, mHealth proponent Noel Chandler, CEO of two-way text messaging software firm Mosio, acknowledges adoption can be a tough sell to the decision-makers closer to the top of the organizational pyramid. His advice to a research coordinator pitching its usage? Focus on a single, easy-to-grasp benefit.

Too often, excited advocates will throw a dozen potential benefits at a wary executive. Instead, Chandler suggests picking something like appointment reminders. Surveys show it typically takes three days for someone to respond to voicemail. Nearly a quarter don’t respond at all. However, a vast majority of trial participants respond within 30 minutes to two-way text appointment follow-ups. Appointment follow-ups can also be handled by far fewer staff, he adds. “Those are pretty clear metrics” likely to grab an executive’s attention, Chandler says.

Millenials have grown up with technology GenXers didn’t meet until they were in their 30s or later, Burr notes. Both sides, as it were, need to educate the other. Millennials have to show the value, while GenXers have to remind their younger colleagues that they don’t have to lug their laptops or tablets around with them wherever they go. “I go to meetings where the younger employees have their laptops out on the table texting and e-mailing during a discussion,” she says. The younger set aren’t being rude, she stresses. It’s just that they’ve grown up operating that way.

Chandler is encouraged that text messaging is seeing its fastest adoption rate among those aged 45–65. “They’re getting into it,” he says.

The tech generation gap shows signs of closing up. However, it’s up to members on both sides to explore better ways to make their own two-way interactions more productive.