According to the US Census Bureau, “In 2050, the population aged 65 and over is projected to be 83.7 million, almost double its estimated population of 43.1 million in 2012”. It is a fact that people are living longer as a result of advances in technology and medicine. New methods of treatment including newly developed drugs as well as machines have literally given seniors a new lease on life. What this has done is led to an increasing aging population who require not only healthcare, but also the basic human needs like food, and shelter. This phenomenon has led to situations where individuals choose to retire at a later age or retire at 65 yet choose to continue working part time in order to supplement their retirement income. This has resulted in an aged working population who end up being sicker in the workforce; and due to age and chronic diseases, may require longer periods of recovery than those for a younger population.
Telemedicine can play an integral role in caring for this aging population. Leveraging the available technology to assist with healthcare and coordination of related services may prove to benefit both the patient and the provider; and help relieve what may be set to become an overwhelming healthcare situation.
The following are 7 ways telemedicine can be used to improve healthcare for seniors and the elderly.
It brings the house call back to the medical practice
Telemedicine allows the provider to once again return to the patient’s home. While the provider is not there physically, they are there via video chat through the use of applications like Healthchat
Multiple providers of all specialties available
Telemedicine is being used more frequently especially by mental health providers. The VA system uses telemedicine to reach their patients who are not local to their facilities. They use this type of service for consultations with patients as well as case management.
Increased care coordination
With advances in technology, providers may better assess patients. Doctors, nurses, social workers, and case managers can work together via conferencing to ensure the best coordination of care so that the patient is receiving the best treatment.
The use of telemedicine means that the provider comes to the patient. As the visit is virtual, there is no need for either person to leave their home or office; yet the assessment and treatment plan can occur easily and without interruption.
Seniors and the elderly often have more than one chronic condition like hypertension, diabetes, balance issues or even dementia. All of these conditions can lead to situations where the patient may easily come into harm’s way when they leave the house. A virtual visit lessens the possibility of an accident for the elderly.
The convenience of telemedicine allows provider visits to occur at both a time and place that is good for both the provider and the patient. It also allows for the patient’s family/caregiver to be present. This can allow for improved communication, as well as patient and caregiver education which has an overall effect of improved outcomes.
Given the convenience as well as improvements in coordination of care, and patient and caregiver education; it follows that an overall cost reduction is expected. Costs of travel for patient and doctor are non-existent. Costs for office visits including paperwork generated, use of physical space, and necessary staff would be significantly reduced.
As the world moves into an unprecedented era of change in healthcare; it is clear that the system will be tested by the growing needs of our society. Telemedicine is one tool that can be used by many different areas of the healthcare system, to provide quality care as well as provide an enhancement to care coordination for seniors and the elderly. With the possibility of increasing better outcomes while decreasing costs, it’s imperative that providers and the healthcare community embrace telemedicine and all of its offers.