Telehealth for Seniors: Benefits & Best Practices

It’s a myth that seniors aren’t interested in technology or that they don’t want to find new ways to stay connected. Seniors video chat with grandkids, they use smart appliances in their homes, and they wear smart, wearable devices. In fact, many new smart devices have been directly marketed toward seniors to keep them connected with loved ones, or to help them stay safe if they live alone.

Seniors can thrive by using virtual healthcare to manage and improve their health and stay connected.

Telehealth can help manage chronic health conditions in adults over 65

According to the National Council on Aging and the American Psychological Association, chronic health conditions including heart disease, cancer, stroke, and diabetes cause more than two-thirds of deaths for those over 65. Many of these chronic diseases can be managed or even prevented through proactive care. Virtual care provides convenient ways for older adults to check in regularly with their providers and even refill prescriptions used for managing their conditions.

Telehealth can help caregivers manage dementia issues at home

Most older people prefer to live at home as they receive their care. In fact, only 5% of senior Americans live in nursing homes. This is true of patients with dementia as well, as 85% of Americans with dementia live at home or in an assisted living setting. Much of the time, their in-home caretakers are unpaid family members rather than trained nurses or nursing assistants.

Virtual care can support patients’ desire to live at home, while also providing support for their caregivers. Some healthcare organizations also provide education for the caregivers, further improving the level of care that seniors can receive at home.

Telehealth can reduce the number of emergency room and hospital visits for seniors

Giving seniors more direct, virtual access to a healthcare provider can reduce the need for visits to the emergency room and unnecessary hospital visits. Teletriage can help reduce foot traffic in Emergency Rooms by directing patients to the appropriate level of care. It can keep patients from being exposed to other diseases.

Telehealth and wearable devices can help doctors track health from a distance

Remote patient monitoring, including sensors, wearable devices, and cameras can alert caretakers to changes in vital signs such as blood pressure, heart rate, blood sugar, and more, as well as activities of patients who are at high risk. Remote patient monitoring can also help patients recover at home, cutting down on the time a patient stays in the hospital.

Telehealth can make it easier to keep appointments and refill prescriptions

Twenty-six percent of older adults live alone, according to the APA. It’s harder for patients who live alone to keep their appointments when they must travel long distances or rely on public transportation. Those with mobility issues face additional challenges as they may need to order paratransit services.

When patients miss appointments, small problems go untreated. They can suffer from more serious conditions that could have been prevented. A virtual visit can save a patient an entire day of finding a ride, traveling to the clinic, and sitting in a waiting room just for a 20- or 30-minute appointment.

Telehealth can connect senior patients to more specialists

As the younger generations move from rural settings to cities, older adults who remain in rural communities may find it harder to find the specialists they need. Long drives to the nearest big city may be impossible. Telehealth can improve the quality of care seniors receive by connecting their primary physicians with specialists.

Telehealth done correctly can improve access to care for seniors.

The number of Americans over age 85 is increasing faster than any other age group. CMS is expanding eligibility for coverage of telehealth services in 2021. Healthcare providers need to be vigilant about improving virtual care options for their seniors. Whether seniors will feel more connected and in control of their healthcare options or less depends largely on accessibility, clear communication, and ease of use.

Don’t require an extra app to download. Make it easy for anyone–seniors included–to launch a virtual visit. Be sure your telehealth solution is as simple for your patients as viewing photos of their grandkids on social media. Simply send a clickable link over email or text that can launch a secure, HIPAA compliant video visit.

Do look familiar and friendly. As much as possible, use your organization’s own logos, colors, and personality. Choose a telehealth solution that offers you a white label experience so you can customize your patients’ virtual front door. Be sure instructions are clear and to the point.

Don’t assume. No matter your patients’ age, video telehealth may be a new experience for them. Be sure to let them know what to expect when they make their very first telehealth call. Outline the steps involved in a virtual care visit and list any information they should have ready. If they will have to wait longer than a minute or two for their provider to sign on with them, be sure to let them know ahead of time. (Even better, find a telehealth partner who can connect patients and providers in as little as 30 seconds!)

Do allow flexible sign in options. Pay attention to your entire user interface and overall user experience. Allow patients the opportunity to access telehealth on a device that is comfortable and known to them. Make sure your website and virtual visit portal follow accessibility guidelines by the ADA and can work on desktops, tablets, and mobile devices.

Don’t force seniors to connect over video. Not everyone who wants telemedicine will have access to a device that can make video calls. Be sure your virtual care solution can work on any kind of telephone or internet connected device.

Do provide multiple language options. Aging Americans are becoming more diverse each year. Be sure your providers have immediate access to medical interpreter services who can be added easily and securely to the visit.

Is it time to audit your organization’s virtual care for seniors?

√ single click to launch secure video visit

√ on demand virtual care network

√ single click to add outside specialists

√ easy to access from any device

√ immediate access to interpreters in 200+ languages

√ white labeled approach to virtual care

√ easy integration with your EHR

If your virtual care solution isn’t checking all these boxes, set up a demo with us. We’re happy to show you how simple and cost effective your telehealth solution can be.

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