If there was any good that came out of the COVID-19 pandemic, it was the evolution of telehealth and online doctor visits. While this technology did exist in the past, it has grown by leaps and bounds over the last year, and many people are benefiting, especially the elderly.
Many seniors are confined to their homes, and getting out and about, combined with the cost of in-person doctor visits, can keep older patients from getting the care that they need. Luckily, with telehealth, the elderly can see a doctor from the comfort of their own home for a variety of ailments and conditions and the best part is that much of it is typically covered by insurance. Let’s talk a bit about telehealth and its benefits for older patients.
Ease of Use
Most healthcare professionals understand that telehealth is an essential tool for anyone who does not have immediate access to health care or otherwise cannot easily see a physician in person. Therefore, elderly are prime candidates for this service. One of the greatest aspects of telehealth is that it is exceptionally easy to use, even for those without advanced computer skills. When there is a struggle, a patient can reach out to a public health professional who has been trained in health education for help learning the platforms.
While many people use a computer, you don’t necessarily need one to log on and get help. Instead, seniors can access their doctor on a tablet or cell phone, so if they cannot easily get around, the device can be taken to them. Seniors can reach the service by using a video app or often by calling a toll-free phone number. From there, they present basic information, and the office helps to set up an appointment. Then it is just as easy as speaking to the physician face-to-face over video.
Although the process is relatively straightforward, doctors can do even more to make the service easier and more accessible to seniors with comprehension or cognitive issues. For instance, before the appointment, medical offices can distribute written instructions that the patient can read to better understand the process before they log on. If a senior has vision or hearing issues, the use of subtitles can make it easier to understand. Also, with multiple language options, anyone can get the care they need.
Telehealth is often also a more affordable option when compared to going to a physical office to see the doctor in person. This is especially important for the elderly as they are typically on a fixed budget and any money saved is a good thing. As a bonus, many telehealth services are covered under Medicare so there is even less money coming out of pocket.
Just as Medicare typically covers regular in-person doctor visits, Medicare Part B covers telehealth visits in the same way, covering consultations with most medical professionals, including doctors, physician assistants, clinical psychologists, dietitians, clinical social workers, and more. All in all, with telehealth on Medicare Part B, patients will typically be looking at a coinsurance payment of 20% of the cost of the services received. Those who are over the age of 65 or have certain other conditions are eligible for Medicare and can begin to use the benefits almost immediately.
The cost of the doctor’s visits is just one way that older patients can save money with telehealth. The convenience of being able to log on day or night without leaving the house can be another major perk. A lot of time and effort must be made to schedule apartments and sometimes drive many miles while paying for gas and wear and tear on the vehicle, just to do it all again for follow-up appointments. Many seniors are unable to drive themselves and will need to rely on someone else to get them to and from. This can be a major inconvenience, especially for seniors who need specialized care, so telehealth can again come to the rescue.
Chronic Care, Care Coordination, Physical Therapy and more!
Perhaps the greatest perk of telehealth for the elderly is the variety of services that seniors can obtain without leaving the home. These digital doctor visits have evolved into much more than just initial consultations as patients can now get follow-up appointments at the touch of a button in addition to providing almost immediate feedback on their blood pressure and glucose levels and other remote assessments without having to come into a physical lab.
A great benefit for seniors is the chronic disease management that patients can get from any online device, no matter where they live. Doctors can provide constant support and coaching to patients for their primary ailment in addition to weight management and nutrition counseling. Physicians can also provide prescriptions and practice medication management, so seniors always have what they need to live their best life.
The ability to converse with doctors via telehealth is also great for those who require physical therapy. Through video, therapists can provide instructions for exercise and seniors can do the actions within their own home. Online physical therapy is especially helpful for those who need help with balance issues, cancer rehabilitation, and chronic pain management. This is an awesome perk, especially since physical therapy locations may be sparse in more rural areas of the country.
There is no doubt about it. The rise of telehealth has been a lifesaver for the elderly, especially during the existence of COVID-19. Over time, this technology will only continue to evolve and it will lead our elders to live better and more comfortable senior years.