Is Telemedicine the Future of Health Care for Seniors?

By Ruby Cemental

Providing primary and complex care can be a challenge when caring for aging loved ones. Finding a quality solution that is cost effective and allows for independence and convenience can be a roadblock for the healthcare system and involved family members. A recent solution: telehealth services. Telehealth is the digital communication between healthcare providers and patients used to assess, diagnose and treat from a distance. Learn more about how today's technology aids patient care.

Types of Telehealth

There are different types of telehealth available for seniors. Learn about some of the options below. 

Synchronous Telehealth 

Synchronous telehealth refers to real-time communication. Two-way video conferencing is used to communicate with patients from afar. Internet connection and a low-cost microphone and webcam are all that is needed for a doctor's visit.

Asynchronous Telehealth

Asynchronous telehealth refers to a store-and-forward process, similar to email. Using a secured platform, providers can share medical data with their patients and other healthcare specialists. All involved can view the information at different times as opposed to live communication.

Remote Patient Monitoring

RPM allows for the tracking of vital signs using sensors, cameras and other devices to follow the activities of high-risk patients.

All of these telehealth methods allow health providers to offer a vast array of health and care management services that don't require home or office visits but with the same quality of care.

Telehealth can address, but is not limited to, the following types of care:

  1. Primary and follow-up care
  2. Home-based care
  3. Mental health care
  4. Urgent care

Telehealth Benefits

Healthcare via telecommunication offers many benefits to seniors, including:

  • Minimizes unnecessary hospital visits
  • Reduces medical and travel costs
  • Improves care access
  • Provides ongoing support to patients and family members
  • Increases the chances of continued independent or community home living
  • Increases patient access to a variety of doctors and specialists in rural or remote areas
  • Decreases wait time for appointments
  • Decreases exposure to germs frequently present in clinic or hospital waiting areas

Telehealth Disadvantages

Along with anything else, there are some cons to telemedicine. Here are a few of the disadvantages:

  • Reduces face-to-face visits with doctors and may lead to missing key symptoms or concerns
  • Requires technical ability and access to technology
  • May not always be covered by insurance

Telemedicine and Insurance

When considering telemedicine for seniors, it is important to note that Medicare coverage only extends to patients within designated Health Professional Shortage Areas. Medicare also requires patients to be located at a health center when they receive the telemedicine services. Seniors who receive telemedicine services that are covered by Medicare are responsible for their portion of the fee just as they are for regular office visits.

If you don't qualify with Medicare, seniors should check their other insurance plans for coverage. If their insurance plan doesn't offer telemedicine coverage, there are many telemedicine options available. Some sites provide "subscriptions" for a low monthly fee, or offer visits on a per-visit charge that is comparable to many insurance plans' co-pay or co-insurance fees. There are many options available to help reduce cost and increase access.

Looking to the Future

With the continual progression of technology, healthcare providers will start to use video conferencing, email, SMS, and other digital channels as a primary means to provide care for their patients. While some seniors haven't embraced technology, many have! However, most seniors are just unaware of the benefits or the fact that telehealth is even an option to get the health care they need.

Caring Senior Service helps seniors get better care through technology as we provide a tablet in every home. Seniors can schedule visit and communicate via this tablet. We are always ready to help seniors and their families by providing professional advice and services. Contact our care team today to learn more!

For more information about how technology is changing senior care, check out our resource: Senior Care Products of the Future. Access our free content library by first finding your local Caring office