Telehealth is the distribution of health-related services via digital and communication technologies, such as the computer or phone. While this isn’t necessarily a new thing, telehealth saw a major usage boost due to the COVID-19 pandemic, as more people and organizations started using telehealth for non-urgent matters. From video calls with doctors to patient portals where you can get ongoing medication prescriptions, telemedicine allows for a lower influx in emergency rooms while protecting patients by letting them get health care without leaving the house. Of course, this is also highly beneficial for seniors in their day-to-day lives, as telehealth allows them to be monitored without going to medical appointments in person as often.
Types of Telehealth
There are three types of telehealth: synchronous, asynchronous, and remote patient monitoring. Understanding when to use each and what technology is required will help you get the most out of the service:
Synchronous telehealth refers to real-time communication, which can be done over video, audio, or text. This includes video conferences, phone calls, and live chat. The first option is the one preferred by professionals, as apart from tasks that require physical contact, everything else can be done over video.
As the name implies, asynchronous telehealth refers to non-live communication, such as email. While these aren’t a good fit for medical appointments, they can speed up the bureaucratic process for various situations, like for refilling prescriptions, scheduling appointments, asking questions, and more.
Remote Patient Monitoring
Remote patient monitoring involves using any piece of equipment to monitor your health at home, which is then automatically shared with your doctor. This is perfect for patients who need to track their health-related data regularly to see trends over time. There are measuring devices available for blood pressure, heart rate, body temperature, and more.
Benefits of Telehealth
Telehealth provides benefits for both patients and hospitals. By allowing non-urgent medical appointments to be made at a distance, telehealth minimizes unnecessary hospital visits, which frees up time in triage for more severe conditions. This also means that the patient saves money on medical and travel costs, as they only have to pick up the phone or turn on their computer. Simultaneously, telehealth increases care access for people who have difficulty going to the hospital or live in remote areas where there’s no physician nearby. This system also reduces waiting times for appointments and decreases exposure to germs and diseases usually found in clinic and hospital waiting areas.
Drawbacks of Telehealth
Like everything in life, telehealth is not perfect, and there are a few drawbacks to using such a system. The very first is the depersonalization of medical appointments. Like a Zoom call with family members, online consultations aren't as warm as in-person appointments. Moreover, some seniors see medical appointments as a good reason to get out of the house and be active in their communities. They may have a family member accompanying them or have conversations with other people in the waiting room, which can be the sole opportunity for these seniors to socialize. Loneliness is a serious matter, and the lack of physical contact could put seniors in a downward spiral.
Less tech-savvy seniors may also have problems with setting up everything on their computer or smartphone for a seamless remote medical appointment. If there's no one to help them get started, then telemedicine just won't work. On top of that, older adults might have difficulties explaining their symptoms, such as the exact pain area, what type of pain it is, and so on. For telehealth to work effectively, doctors need to have a detailed overview of the situation, which may not be the case at all times.
When to Use Telehealth
The best way to understand when you should use telehealth is by balancing the risk and benefit of going to an in-person appointment. Obviously, if someone is having a heart attack, they need to go to the emergency room immediately. But things get a little blurry when it comes to day-to-day medical check-ups.
Telehealth is the perfect solution for non-emergency conditions with simple treatments. Some examples are the common cold, the flu, allergies, pink eye, mild respiratory problems, etc. The service is also excellent for monitoring patients with chronic diseases, and it’s a less time-consuming way to get prescription refills.
If you use a medical alert system, then adding a more comprehensive telehealth service is worthwhile. Medical alert systems are already a type of telehealth that helps seniors in times of distress, reminds them to take their pills, and more. But only a few integrate comprehensive telemedecine features. MobileHelp is one of those companies that connects you to a doctor over the phone, computer, or smart device any hour of the day through their service MDLIVE. All of this allows seniors to access health care without the need for a third party to accompany them to the doctor’s office.
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