Alongside the introduction of platforms such as EHR software and practice management software, telemedicine has had a positive impact on the healthcare industry, for patients and providers alike. The term refers to any form of medical care delivered remotely, via technologies such as telephones, video conferencing platforms, the internet and so on, the American Telemedicine Association explained. And the adoption of this strategy by healthcare providers is continuing to grow. Becker's Hospital Review reported on research from Foley and Lardner LLP, which found that telemedicine adoption will likely grow each year by around 14 percent, in the period spanning 2014 to 2020.
There are many benefits to widespread telemedicine adoption, for patients of all ages and backgrounds. One demographic that particularly stands to benefit from telemedicine solutions is adults of retirement age. This article will take a closer look at some of the major reasons why telemedicine is an effective approach when treating seniors.
1. Remote monitoring
Seniors are statistically more likely to experience chronic conditions such as heart disease and diabetes, illnesses that necessitate routine monitoring from healthcare providers. Certain telemedicine technologies can now be utilized by providers to keep an eye on things such as sugar levels and blood pressure. The fact that this can be done remotely curtails the need for routine in-person visits, which can be costly and difficult for seniors who may have mobility problems and/or limited access to transportation, The Senior List argued.
An article from CNBC featured an interview with Tatiana Melnik, an attorney with a background in healthcare information technology, who elaborated on this important point.
"There's a cost savings associated with not having patients come back again. If you can do remote monitoring of patients to make sure they're taking their medications, to check their blood counts and things like that without their having to come into the hospital or physician's office, certainly that's better for everyone," she explained.
2. Lower chance of hospital admission
The use of telemedicine can improve communication between providers and patients, allowing physicians to keep a closer eye on older patients' overall health. Monitoring in this way can allow providers to discern when patients may be becoming sick or at risk of experiencing medical emergencies, Aging Care explained. This in turn means that intervention can be provided before a problem gets out of hand and develops to the point where hospital care is warranted. The source reported on a study which indicated the efficacy of telemedicine in terms of reducing emergency room visits - the study found that when nursing homes adopt telemedicine technologies, as much as $327 million can be saved every year through a reduction in the need for emergency room visits.
3. Greater access to specialists
As detailed, seniors are at a higher risk for developing chronic conditions that necessitate care provided by specialists. Given that specialists are not always located in every community, travel is often warranted, which can prove difficult for seniors with limited mobility and/or chronic conditions that impede movement. Telemedicine removes this barrier, connecting more seniors with necessary care provided by specialists, an article from Spectrum Retirement explained.
4. Relieves stress for caregivers
Seniors are more likely to be looked after, either in a retirement home setting or independently by family members or friends. Aging Care stated that telemedicine can relieve some of the stress associated with caring for seniors. This is achieved in two ways: First, when telemedicine is used, caregivers have greater access to providers who can give them information and help that can promote more effective care. For example, the source reported on the Captain James A. Lovell Federal Health Care Center in Illinois, which has a telemedicine assistance program in place for caregivers. The service connects these individuals with nurses for advice and guidance when needed. This helps improve the quality of care provided at home and curtails the need for costly in-person visits. Second, telemedicine can save caregivers time. Without a reduced need for routine in-person visits to providers, they can dedicate more time to care at home and also their own personal and professional lives.
5. Lower costs for all parties
As detailed in an article from the American Journal of Managed Care, telemedicine is a more cost-effective option for both patients and providers. It can make physicians more money because telemedicine allows for less time-consuming individual consultations, meaning that doctors can see more patients each day. And telemedicine means big savings for both patients and care homes, because consultations delivered virtually tend to cost less, and that's not to mention the money saved in travel.
6. It is safe and secure
Telemedicine services are legally compelled to abide by Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act mandates, U.S. News & World Report explained. HIPAA primarily concerns the protection of patient medical records in a bid to improve privacy and reduce fraud. Consequently, telemedicine is a safe and secure approach to medicine, reducing further stress for seniors and caregivers.