For weeks and even months now, millions of us have relied on the internet in ways we haven’t before. We’ve worked remotely on it, our children have schooled from home on it, and we’ve pushed the limits of our household bandwidth as families have streamed, gamed, and conferenced all at the same time. Something else is new—more and more of us have visited our doctors and healthcare professionals online. Needless to say, this is an entirely new experience for many. And with that, I got to thinking about seniors. What’s been their experience with telemedicine? What concerns have they had? And how can we help?
For starters, an online doctor’s visit is known as telemedicine—a way of diagnosing and treating a medical issue remotely. With telemedicine, care comes from your smartphone or computer via a video conference or a healthcare provider’s portal.
The Rise of Telemedicine
Telemedicine is not new at all. It’s been in use for some time now, such as in rural communities that have little access to local healthcare professionals, in cases of ongoing treatment like heart health monitoring and diabetes care, and in situations where a visit to the doctor’s office simply isn’t practical. What is new is this: telemedicine has made a significant leap in recent months.
A recent global consumer survey by Dynata took a closer look at this trend. The research spanned age groups and nations across North America and Europe, which found that 39% of its respondents consulted a physician or healthcare professional online in the past few months. Of them, two-thirds said they used telemedicine as part of their care. Yet more telling, 84% of those who recently had a telemedicine appointment said this was the first time they used telemedicine.
Satisfaction with Telemedicine Among Seniors
Dynata’s study also looked at their attitudes and experiences with telemedicine based on age and reported that members of the Baby Boomer generation found the experience satisfactory—just over 55%. Interestingly, this was also quite consistent across other age groups, with all hovering just above or below that same level of satisfaction.
Another study gives us insight into how seniors’ opinions about telemedicine may have changed in the past year. We can contrast the findings above with a University of Michigan study that polled American adults aged 50 to 80 in the middle of 2019. On the topic of telemedicine, the research found that:
- 64% would consider using telemedicine if they had an unexpected illness while traveling
- 58% saw it as an option for a return visit or follow-up
- 34% would use it to address a new health concern
Concerns Regarding Telemedicine
The University of Michigan study also asked how older Americans felt about telemedicine visits. At that time in 2019, only 14% said that their provider offered telemedicine visits, while 55% didn’t know if they had the option available to them at all. Just a small number, 4%, said they’d had a telemedicine visit within the year. Needless to say, it’ll be interesting to see what 2020’s results would have to say should the university run this poll again.
In terms of their experience with telemedicine, of those who had at least one telemedicine visit, 58% felt that in-person office visits provided an overall better level of care, and about 55% felt that in-person visits were better for communicating with their healthcare professional and feeling better cared-for overall.
→ Dig Deeper: 6 Tips for a Safer and Easier Telemedicine Visit
Benefits of Telemedicine for Seniors
While it may seem daunting for seniors to navigate the world of telemedicine, there are several advantages to this healthcare approach. One of the main benefits of telemedicine is the elimination of travel time. This can be particularly beneficial for seniors with mobility issues or living in rural areas lacking transportation. As all consultations are conducted virtually, seniors can access healthcare from the comfort of their homes.
Another benefit is the ease of monitoring chronic conditions. Telemedicine allows healthcare providers to closely monitor patients’ symptoms and adjust treatment plans without requiring frequent office visits. This not only saves time but can also lead to better health outcomes. With health trackers and mobile applications, healthcare providers can remotely monitor vitals like blood sugar levels or heart rate, enabling immediate intervention if required.
Overcoming Technological Barriers
The main barrier to telemedicine for seniors is often technology. A lack of familiarity with the required devices and applications can prove daunting for some. However, with a little help and guidance, this can be overcome. Caregivers, family members, or telemedicine providers can teach seniors how to use the necessary technology. Various user-friendly applications are designed with seniors in mind, simplifying the process.
Providers also often have customer support available to assist with any technological difficulties. It’s essential to remember that the benefits of telemedicine can considerably outweigh the initial learning curve of navigating these new tools. Practice and patience can go a long way in making telemedicine a comfortable and convenient option for seniors.
McAfee Pro Tip: One essential item seniors should have during their visit is a dependable device they are familiar with. This could include a desktop computer, laptop, smartphone, or tablet. Remember that certain telemedicine solutions used by healthcare providers might have specific requirements, so it’s important to check those and ensure their devices are compatible.
Telemedicine can benefit seniors, offering more accessible healthcare services and better chronic condition management. While technological may seem challenging, it can be successfully navigated with the right guidance and support. Ultimately, telemedicine is a tool to improve healthcare accessibility and outcomes for seniors, and taking the first steps towards embracing it can lead to better health and comfort.
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