According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 85 percent of senior adults aged 65 and over have at least one chronic medical condition, such as asthma, diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, or arthritis. Seeking medical care for these conditions can result in costly medical bills, putting affordable health care out of reach of many elderly patients.
Healthier lifestyles and advances in medical care are allowing people to live much longer than they did in the past. Consequently, the number of elderly citizens is expected to double from the current 46 million to more than 98 million over the next 40 years. The Population Reference Bureau estimates that the number of people requiring long-term care in senior care facilities will increase by 75 percent by 2030. This growing elderly population will need access to affordable medical care.
Telemedicine offers an affordable and practical solution for making health care both accessible and affordable for senior patients. It also helps address some of the common challenges elderly patients face when seeking medical care. Some of the key benefits are outlined below:
Improved Management of Chronic Conditions
Telemedicine provides those in assisted living facilities with access to high-quality medical care around the clock without having to visit a medical practitioner in person. Healthcare providers can monitor patients remotely, using connected devices to monitor vital signs, blood sugar levels, and other medical data. If necessary, a doctor can change a patient’s medication or arrange for a nurse to visit the patient at home, alleviating the need for inpatient care. This helps seniors with long-term chronic conditions better manage their condition from the convenience and safety of their living space.
Reduces Hospital Visits and Patient Risks
Many assisted living facilities do not have access to medical staff 24/7, which limits the level of care that can be provided on site. Telehealth services help fill this gap, reducing the health risks to seniors who might otherwise not have gotten the care they needed in time. It also alleviates the stress and confusion, as well as the potential physical and health risks, associated with leaving the safety of the care facility to travel to see a medical practitioner in person.
Improves Accessibility to Medical Care, Saving Time and Money
Many seniors have poor eyesight, arthritis, or other conditions that impair their mobility, which can make getting dressed, traveling, getting from their car to the medical facility, and sitting in a waiting room for long periods extremely difficult and time-consuming. Telehealth allows elderly patients to seek the care they need without having to travel to a medical care facility. A patient with Parkinson’s disease, for example, could consult with their neurologist from the comfort and safety of their care facility, allowing the doctor to evaluate the patient’s movements, gait, and speech over video.
Moreover, telehealth reduces costs for both patients and doctors while also saving time. Reducing the costs associated with transporting elderly patients to medical facilities for in-person visits can also help assisted living facilities keep their costs down.
Allows Caregivers to Participate in Patient Health Care
Telemedicine allows caregivers to participate in virtual visits, giving them better insight into the patient’s medical conditions and healthcare needs. Elderly people may have poor hearing or memory, and may not relate all the facts to their caregivers clearly. Being able to participate in telehealth sessions can help caregivers better understand their client’s needs.
Reduces the Need for Hospitalizations
Telemedicine helps connect on-site staff at assisted living facilities to specialized medical care. Instead of having to transport senior residents to a hospital for medical attention, care staff can seek medical advice by consulting with a medical expert online. This reduces the need to hospitalize elderly patients unnecessarily and avoids the associated stress and the potential for vulnerable patients to be exposed to infections, which could cause their health to deteriorate further.
Aging Gracefully: Telehealth Can Help Seniors Live a Long and Healthy Life
A national poll on healthy aging recently conducted by the University of Michigan found that many adults over the age of 50 found the convenience that telehealth offered enticing. More than 47 percent of participants believed a telehealth consultation would be more convenient than an in-person consultation, while 48 percent stated they would be interested in conducting telehealth visits with their healthcare provider. Further, 40 percent expressed an interest in remote specialty care and 35 percent expressed an interest in online mental health services.
Telehealth offers many benefits to seniors and can improve their health and quality of life without the stress often associated with conventional health visits. It also saves costs, making medical care not only more accessible but also more affordable.