05 Nov 10 Ways Telemedicine Will Improve Seniors Lives
Telehealth care is key to safety and social distancing, especially for older adults and those with chronic illnesses. We explore how the elderly will benefit from the shift towards telemedicine.
As an aging adult, you may find yourself visiting the doctor more frequently than ever before. Many seniors have entire days filled with visit after visit to different doctors and facilities. With the COVID-19 pandemic, the elderly have probably seen many of their visits be cancelled or move to a virtual setting. While telemedicine has been trending for several years now, it has not made its way into the mainstream just yet.
The pandemic as a force for change
However, the temporary changes that seniors have observed in telemedicine may continue for the long haul. Insurers have been authorizing payments for these visits when they hadn’t before. These are often said to be temporary, but it is likely that we will see this technological trend continue to become a permanent fixture of the American healthcare system. Luckily, there are endless benefits for older adults and all individuals as telemedicine becomes more prevalent.
What is telemedicine?
Telemedicine is medical care that is provided through the use of technology. Visits happen either by phone only, or through video calls on a computer or other mechanism in which you interact with your provider or other healthcare professional. This will cut down on the time patients have to spend in person at a doctor’s office or in a hospital. Some healthcare facilities are equipped to use remote monitoring technology. These can track vital signs and spot health warning signs before they become a bigger problem.
While some types of healthcare will naturally require a trip to the doctor’s office, a large number of healthcare needs can be addressed with telemedicine as opposed to being done in-person. Healthcare systems are beginning to realize just how much can be done virtually since they have been forced to reckon with a sudden move online during the coronavirus outbreak.
10 benefits of senior telemedicine and telehealth visits
Avoiding germs and disease
One of the top benefits of telemedicine visits is the ability to avoid the incidence of exposure to harmful bacteria and viruses. People go to a doctor when they are sick, so naturally doctor’s offices and hospitals increase the risk of people getting sick from others in these settings. Of course, telemedicine is booming for exactly that reason. With seniors and those with compromised immunity at the greatest risk of developing complications due to COVID-19, the ability to adequately provide telemedicine is a no-brainer for practitioners. In fact, the coronavirus pandemic might finally be what brings telehealth into the mainstream from here on out.
Improved access to care and overall accessibility
If you are an older adult or caregiver, you know how challenging it can be to get to and from a doctor’s office. With limited or reduced mobility, it can be a real struggle for seniors to regularly make their scheduled visits. By moving some visits online, it can dramatically increase the ability of individuals to interact with their providers while ensuring safety from the comfort of one’s own home. Plus, with an increasing physician shortage, telehealth can help maximize provider networks in new ways that expand care access. In addition, telehealth can be utilized to reach patients in rural areas or in areas that have a shortage of healthcare resources.
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Offer the ability to remotely monitor
The elderly are much more likely to face chronic conditions like heart disease and diabetes. These illnesses require routine monitoring from healthcare providers. Some telemedicine technologies can be used by doctors which allow them to do activities like stay on top of sugar levels or blood pressure. When this can be done remotely, it negates the need for in-person visits, which are often done regularly. Not only can it be hard on seniors who may have challenges with their mobility or poor access to transportation, but it often leads to lower costs as well that are the responsibility of the patient.
Better healthcare compliance
A byproduct of telemedicine is that it can lead to fewer missed visits. How? With the increased difficulty of transportation to and from an appointment removed, older adults are better able to keep their appointments. With greater adherence to one’s visits, it can help the doctor ensure that the patient is fully compliant with their regimen and to help educate them and remind them to stay on top of their treatment plan. On top of that, telehealth visits can happen with potentially greater frequency, which allow the provider to regularly keep an eye on the patient at hand.
Lower costs for patients
We mentioned that transportation costs would be positively impacted by limiting the need of patients that need to find a ride to and from their appointments. On top of that, telehealth visits tend to cost less than their in-person counterparts. That may lead to fewer out of pocket healthcare costs as well for older adults. On top of that, the nature of telemedicine visits usually means that doctors can see more patients each day. Not only will that save the physician money, but that will also improve access to care. The patient ultimately benefits from this through increased ability to see their doctor.
Reduce caregiver burden
Older adults are much more likely to be supported by a caregiver, and many of these are unpaid family caregivers. Virtual visits can reduce the stress and burden that caregivers face in several ways. For starters, the increased doctor and visit access also means that the caregiver has greater access to doctor resources and information that can help them better provide care. Since most caregivers don’t have formal training, this is crucial for them to be successful. Plus, while fewer in-person visits helps the older adult, it also helps the caregiver who is often the one bringing their loved one to and from a visit. This frees them up to help focus their care or to just deal with personal or professional matters.
Better access to specialty doctors
With more chronic conditions come added visits. Many of these must be facilitated by specialty doctors, such as neurologists, endocrinologists, cardiologists, etc. Specialists are often in high demand and may not be located in all communities. As a result, the need for travel to these visits may not only be required but may be more time consuming due to their distance requirements. Plus, specialists often have long wait times to schedule appointments. Through greater use of virtual health visits, seniors can find it easier to connect to specialists while also being more timely.
Visits are confidential and safe
A senior may be concerned about security as it relates to doing an entire visit remotely and online. While these concerns are understandable given the many data breaches we have seen over the years, telehealth visits are generally safe. Telemedicine services are still legally required to be HIPAA compliant (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act). HIPAA oversees the requirements of physicians and healthcare providers to protect patient medical records which leads to patient privacy and minimizes fraud potential. As a result, telemedicine should be just as safe and secure as a regular visit, which can offer older adults and loved ones peace of mind. Don’t be afraid to ask your doctor’s office or healthcare system what steps they take to ensure the safety and privacy of all information transmitted.
Through more regular monitoring, decreased burden on the patient through fewer visits, and the ability to add new ways to connect to a doctor, a patient may be able to prolong their ability to remain independent at home. This can be true if they have conditions that don’t require more intensive care from a nursing home or institutional facility. A telehealth visit may be able to be supplemented through the care they are currently receiving from their caregiver, whether it be an unpaid family caregiver or a paid home care assistant.
Improved patient satisfaction
Of course, it may not be a surprise that with all the benefits listed here, patient satisfaction will likely be improved as well. And patient satisfaction and patient safety often go hand in hand. When a patient reflects satisfaction with their care, they may be more likely to be compliant with their treatment plan and also adhere to their visits. Luckily, through advances in telemedicine, the ability to adhere to visits is made that much easier.
As you have seen, there are many ways that older adults and family caregivers can use telemedicine to facilitate high-quality healthcare that is accessible and convenient. These digital healthcare services are quickly becoming mainstream and are one benefit that may be long lasting as a result of the pandemic. These visits may limit the need for in-person appointments, lower overall healthcare costs, improve patient satisfaction, and aid in patient compliance. With millions of Americans preparing to reach old age, seniors and their loved ones may be able to utilize these services to positively impact care for them.
When seniors and older adults find that they need a little extra assistance around the house, they may consider adding at-home personal caregivers. Chosen Family Home Care is a Philadelphia and greater Delaware Valley based home care agency that specializes in providing supportive and compassionate caregivers. Our caregivers can help ensure that a patient is adhering to and understands their treatment, whether that is done through a virtual visit or by accompanying them to a visit in a doctor’s office. With a comprehensive needs assessment and mission-driven approach, we can determine the best course of action for you and your loved one, while considering your budget and the individual requirements that family caregivers need.