Telemedicine: A Game Changer for Senior Healthcare

In today’s age, retirees and seniors are now able to receive high-quality medical services without leaving the comfort of their home. All thanks to telemedicine.

Telemedicine, a high-tech patient care model, is quickly gaining momentum as a way to lower costs while improving healthcare quality, specifically amongst aging populations.

The objective of telemedicine is to create a distance healthcare experience which is identical in quality and comprehensiveness as a traditional office visit. In addition to offering convenience for both patients and caregivers, telemedicine offers a number of key advantages:

  • Decreased Hospitalization Rates: In North Carolina, telemedicine is helping aging adults remain in their homes longer through RPM. Intervention and response times for patients managing heart failure, COPD, and diabetes was greatly improved because of telemedicine technologies. According to another study, RPM has the potential to prevent between 460,000 and 627,000 heart failure-related hospital readmissions every year.
  • Prolonged Autonomy: Telehealth supports the increased emphasis on aging in place. A Pennsylvania nonprofit that runs senior living communities reduced the percentage of patients moving into nursing homes from 20% to 12%. This dramatic reduction is a result of frail patients wearing monitoring devices alerting nurses immediately to a fall via text message, allowing for more rapid intervention.
  • Less Waiting and Faster Response: Telemedicine eliminates waiting room tedium and enables more timely response from health care professionals through email, text message, and other electronic channels.
  • Lower Costs: Many physicians will charge patients less for a telehealth consultation than they do for an in-person visit, additional these visits cost the physician less time. What’s more, telehealth can reduce costs associated with travel and provide easier access to medical care for those living in rural areas.
  • Reduced Hospital Readmissions: The University of Virginia Medical Center in Charlottesville created a telehealth program that combines real-time data with remote patient monitoring (RPM) for those discharged with heart failure, pneumonia, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a recent heart attack, or a hip or knee replacement. Nurses are then alerted to any issues via remote monitoring system and can make contact with the patient via phone or make an in-home visit when needed. One year into the program, the facility saw a reduction in its 30-day readmission to about 10%, in contrast with the national average of 17.5%.
  • Improved Quality of Life: One analysis revealed, compared to conventional home care, home telehealth services improved access to care, patients’ medical conditions, and quality of life. The results of another study showed that a 2-month telemedicine program led to lower scores for depression and anxiety in cardiac patients. Patients who participated in the program also had 38% fewer hospital admissions and 31% fewer readmissions.

 

Any new change in process comes with it’s challenges as well as successes. Telehealth communication systems are susceptible to electronic glitches, bad weather, slow internet connections, and other outside factors which could impact data reception. Although the same confidentiality rules as face-to-face interactions apply to telemedicine, electronically transmitted information is susceptible to hackers. In addition, not all insurers are currently reimbursing physicians for telemedicine-based services and may only provide limited coverage. Lastly, diagnosing certain conditions may simply not be possible with telemedicine, and may ultimately necessitate an in-person visit.

Concerns aside, telemedicine holds great promise for the aging population. As of 2013, 52% of hospitals are utilizing telehealth services with another 10% seeking to implement these services. In 2015, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) extended Medicare coverage to include 7 new telehealth services for beneficiaries in certain regions, providing providers more incentive to embrace this revolution of advanced healthcare delivery.

For the full article on telemedicine and aging click here. 

For more information on telehealth services offered by CMS click here. 

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One Comment


  1. chelsea shirt
    Apr 15, 2017

    I am so grateful for your article.

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