In recent years, the pandemic has changed the way we think about healthcare and telehealth services. While telehealth is not new, it became much more prevalent in 2020 and beyond. Many young people adapted to the shift easily, but telehealth for elderly patients was often challenging.
Many elderly patients can benefit from telehealth for a variety of reasons. For instance, immunocompromised or other vulnerable patients can receive the care they need without leaving their homes. Additionally, patients who have difficulty with mobility can eliminate unnecessary travel. According to the CDC, one in seven adults in the United States have serious disabilities that affect their mobility.
While it’s clear why telehealth for elderly patients is valuable, this demographic often struggles with digital literacy, which makes telehealth difficult to navigate.
Ways to Increase Accessibility of Telehealth for Elderly Patients
While there are many reasons that an elderly patient may seek telehealth services, there are also some roadblocks. Here are a couple of the major roadblocks that elderly patients face and how we can help mitigate them:
● Accessibility Issues Due to Disability: Telehealth for elderly patients may be difficult when there are visual, hearing, or mental impairments (dementia, Alzheimer’s, etc.). To assist, ensure that your platform is enabled with screen readers for visually impaired patients, or automatic closed captioning for hearing impaired patients. Also, allow for changes in settings that make type larger and easier to read. For patients with mental impairments, provide easy-to-follow directions on each telehealth page. Doctors can also encourage family members and caregivers join telehealth appointments either to act as interpreters or to guide patients through any technical steps or processes.
● No Access to Required Technology or Confusion on How to Use a Device: Telehealth for older patients is impossible if they don’t have devices such as laptops, computers, or tablets. Even if they do, they may not know how to use them. In this situation, you might consider providing tablets or other devices to your patients to make telehealth appointments easier. Ensure that the device only has the necessary apps or bookmarked websites so that it’s easy to navigate. You can also provide a manual with helpful screenshots that patients can follow to schedule, start, and end an appointment.
● Can’t Check Vital Signs: Some patients need their vital signs checked regularly, which a doctor cannot do via a telehealth appointment. However, simple equipment such as scales and blood pressure monitors can be loaned so that the patient can self-collect data and pass it along to their doctor during their telehealth appointment. While this isn’t ideal, the tradeoff might be worthwhile depending on the individual patient’s needs.
Teleheath is a useful tool for doctors and specialists to be able to serve patients remotely, and some of the most innovative health tech companies like nextgen.com and kareo.com conveniently offer telehealth services within their electronic health record (EHR) platforms.
Recent interest in telehealth services is definitely going to grow. Over half the patients who used telehealth services during the pandemic say that they prefer it to in-person appointments because it is so convenient. By embracing telehealth now, you ensure that you can compete effectively in the medical marketplace now and for years to come.
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