As doctors are on a constant search for better ways to treat people, long gone have the days when house calls were made for care and examination to the time when office hours and appointments were settled for check-ups. Now that technology has improved every area of our lives, healthcare is no different.
Now, there is an option for patients: telemedicine. The term refers to the remote care and treatment provided through technologies such as video conferencing, the internet and so on, as explained by the American Telemedicine Association.
There are numerous benefits of adopting telemedicine for patients from all age groups. However, one demographic where telemedicine is notably gaining momentum is with the senior citizens, enabling them to live independently and improve their quality of life.
According to the American Journal of Managed Care, opting for virtual consultation can prove to be a more cost-effective option for patients as it tends to be more affordable. Most importantly, it reduces the travel costs such as public transport or parking fee, for regular check-ups and non-urgent visits
Additionally, a study from the Scientific World Journal suggests that telemedicine could also reduce costs when making use of low-cost equipment, e.g., the patient’s ‘smart’ television or laptop for video communication. Furthermore, many of the chronic illnesses can be identified in seniors before they worsen, hence reducing treatment costs for patients once again.
Elimination of transport problems
Physically attending the doctors can be troublesome for elders for some reasons, e.g., they may not drive themselves or live far away from the doctor. Others may not leave their homes due to the severity of their illness. Hence, having the privilege of seeing a doctor from home serves as an excellent benefit for seniors.
Staying in the comfort of their homes
Seniors can avail the services while staying in their comfortable environment, where they feel at ease. Also being aware that they are under a consistent watch by their doctors’ makes them feel safer. Simply put, telemedicine can provide the elderly a sense of security and better quality of life.
Additionally, for seniors with mobility issues, telemedicine applications have been a major blessing, primarily because it reduces the risk of getting admitted or readmitted to the hospital.
One of the many advantages of telemedicine is for the provider and patient to setup virtual visits based on the convenience of time and place that suits both parties. Moreover, it also transcends the distance barriers allowing seniors to have remote access to health providers that may not be in the same geographical vicinity as them.
Furthermore, aged patients can make their appointments online, get reminders on their check-ups, receive remote health recommendations or test results through emails, as well as obtain their prescription drugs from the pharmacy of their convenience.
Because most seniors are battling multiple chronic conditions at a given time, telemedicine apps can help them connect with doctors with a varying range of functionalities. What’s better is that most practitioners are now incorporating telemedicine into their existing practice, and patients can contact them easily using their laptop or smartphone.
With reduced travel and quick online contact between the elder person and health facility comes the benefit of saving time on commuting as well as the expediting process of diagnosis and check-ups.
Better monitor chronic conditions
According to CDC, chronic conditions such as heart diseases are the leading cause of death in the United States.
Telemedicine provides as an excellent tool for the elders to communicate their health progress or troubles to doctors via video communication for check-ups or follow-ups, therefore allowing them to provide critical information in real-time to their doctors which may assist in their treatments. Moreover, doctors can identify the early signals of chronic conditions and intervene earlier, reducing the chances of hospitalization or readmissions.
Involvement of seniors in the process
One of the significant advantages of telemedicine applications is the involvement of seniors in the procedure of treatment and their enhanced knowledge of health awareness. It advocates greater participation by allowing them to design and choose which mechanisms are to be used and how. Furthermore, they can keep track of their health data and send in the analysis for inspection. This, in turn, leads to proactive behavior where they get to know their bodies well and are prone to take steps to care for their health, therefore, leading a healthier lifestyle. Lastly, research has established fear of losing independence as a general worry amongst senior citizens. Hence, the use of technology would reduce their dependence on others in daily life.
Often seniors have more than one chronic condition that they are facing, e.g., hypertension, diabetes or joint mobility issues. Leaving their homes in such situations can put the elderly’s health in danger. Hence, with the use of telemedicine and having virtual access to check-ups allows them to get treated for the safety of their own homes without putting anything at risk.
Another major plus point of using telemedicine applications is the ability of nurses and doctors to monitor the seniors’ heart rate, blood sugar, blood pressure real-time which allows them to keep a close check on their health and send for help when needed.
Receiving quicker opinions from doctors
For situations where seniors may experience a specific condition at an odd time and may not know whether to rush to emergency or wait until morning, telemedicine applications may prove to be a valuable service in allowing them to speak to their doctors for reassurance and become a savior.
Reduced chances of catching another illness
One place where you can be sure to find lots of sick people is the doctor’s office, and the last thing patients, especially elders need is to catch a new illness on top of their existing ones. Therefore, telemedicine would enable receiving the appropriate care at home while dodging exposure to new diseases.
This technology has especially proven to be effective in treating depression, which seniors have otherwise struggled with. A study found that telemedicine was as useful as physical one-on-one therapy sessions, hence making it a valuable tool for older adults who face barriers to therapy visits such as mobility.
Reduces social isolation
Research shows that about one-third of the population above the age of 65 lives alone. This, in turn, causes social isolation. Telemedicine, being a two-way communication in real-time between the elder and doctor, helps to counteract this problem to a certain extent and socially ‘include’ the seniors.
The telemedicine industry stands at $17.8 billion and is anticipated to grow from 2015 to 2020 at the rate of 18.4% yearly. A vital element in this phenomenon is the acceptance of it by the senior citizens themselves.
Even today where communication technology is being widely used, many elder people are still not aware of telemedicine or the opportunities provided by it. Hence, educating and training them consistently in this arena becomes crucial. If elders are made familiar with its usage and the technology is tailored perfectly to their lives. Remember, the practical significance that telemedicine can have on the senior population is substantial.