Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, healthcare providers have taken a step ahead to reach patients virtually. That is how telehealth came into play, wherein a patient does not essentially have to visit a doctor’s clinic, especially in cases that do not require critical examination.
This has proven particularly beneficial for people beyond age 60 or seniors in general. Since they are more at the risk of facing the severity of the Coronavirus, a solution like this comes in handy. Having said that, approaching healthcare through telemedicine is quite a novel experience for people in the senior age group and hence they must be educated about it really well.
Here is a rundown of why telehealth can be particularly fruitful for seniors.
What is the Meaning of Telehealth?
Telehealth is primarily concerned with delivering healthcare services through the means of technology, via a video call or online consultation. It promotes the availing of services while sitting at the comfort of homes.
Although telehealth/telemedicine was not utilized by most people before, it has become a common practice since the pandemic hit globally. On analysing the exploration of telehealth by the nation’s health protection agency, it can be concluded that numerous professional healthcare/medicinal setups have begun promoting telehealth.
However, it is quite natural that all illnesses cannot be approached through telemedicine. Depending upon the prevailing condition, assistance of virtual doctors is permissible. But it does bridge the gap between healthcare and people on so many levels as patients can avoid visiting a medical institution.
Why is Telehealth Beneficial for Seniors?
Telehealth tends to benefit both practitioners and patients in a similar fashion. The adoption of management systems and EHRs has only contributed the glorious future of this practice, which can benefit seniors in the following ways-
· Consistent Remote Monitoring
Seniors are comparatively at higher risk of suffering from a chronic illness, which might result in the need for constant monitoring. For instance, diseases like cardiovascular issues, diabetes, etc. need regular visits to hospitals for check-ups. However, with new age technology pertaining to telehealth, monitoring several attributes of physical health remotely has become easier as well as convenient. This is especially true for patients who have mobility issues and cannot be displaced time and again from their comfortable space.
An organization who is an attorney with an experience in healthcare and information technology field asserted-
“There’s a cost effective practice with not having patients come back again. If you can do remote monitoring of patients to make sure they’re taking their medications, to check their blood counts and things like that without them having to come into the clinic, medical practitioner, hospital or physician’s office, certainly that’s better for everyone.”
· Reduced Possibility of Hospitalization
One of the many purposes of telehealth is to improve the quality of communication between patients and healthcare providers. With consistent communication and regular remote monitoring, a doctor can tell you exactly when the situation is serious. This will help you dodge unnecessary emergency room visits and avail the service as and when you genuinely need it.
· Lesser Mental Strain for Caregivers
Taking care of a senior family member can be quite stressful for a care provider. Not knowing enough about the condition on a technical level can be one of the most difficult experiences. With help of telehealth, this stress can be reduced on two predominant levels-
1. Since doctors are on a constant watch for patients remotely, a caretaker can have a definite idea of the present condition by effectively communicating. This way it will be easier for them to provide precise care.
2. Secondly, the time and resources spent in paying in-person visits are also reduced by remote consultation.
· Access to Problem Specialists
Specialists are not always located at the remotest of locations, where the resources are minimal. People living in such geographical settings often face issues when they have a problem pertaining to specialist intervention. For instance, a person having heart issues will need a cardiologist and not a general physician. This geographical barrier is removed by telehealth that helps connect patients to concerned specialists. Consequently, the course of treatment is smoother and much more appropriate to the problem in consideration.
· Ensured Security
As telehealth is a comparatively new concept for senior citizens, they might be sceptical to try it initially because of safety and security concerns. However, telemedicine is supposed to abide legally by definite laws in order to promote security. For instance, in the US, every telehealth provider is legally bound by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.
· Nominal Cost for Approaching Healthcare
While most people might think that telemedicine is only cost-effective for patients, it is actually fruitful for practitioners as well. Since remote consultation takes lesser time, doctors can see many more patients in a single day, leading to an increase in their gains. In a similar vein, patients save money and time both as they do not have to travel miles to see a doctor every time he needs to get his physical health monitored.
What does the Study Suggest?
Having considered all the benefits of telehealth for seniors, it is also vital to have it backed by reliable research. The advantage it has for seniors is quite apparent. This is especially true when telehealth is coupled with their primary healthcare provider.
A study conducted by an Institute on the medical needs of seniors analyzed telehealth visits across three healthcare organizations. The visits were 313,516 in number. The implication drawn from the analysis was that most urgent/non-urgent requirements were resolved via telemedicine.
What is the Future?
Although in-person visits have proven quite effective for so many years, a pandemic practically demolished the system for the lockdown period. A senior citizen could easily be taken to a doctor for a medical emergency, but certainly not without subjecting him to the risk of the virus. And that is where telehealth has bridged the gap. The effect of telehealth has been quite evident as it has helped successfully solve many cases. And since it has also revealed benefits beyond remote consultation, in the context of seniors, it is fairly a futuristic approach.