When people think of a hospital currently, they likely picture a patient struggling to breathe in the emergency room or someone connected to a ventilator in the ICU—all suffering from COVID-19. But what about senior patients who would have normally gone to the doctor for a checkup on their diabetes or for a problem they were experiencing due to congestive heart failure?
As COVID-19 ravages the globe, it is becoming increasingly vital to ensure that older adults with comorbidities are receiving the care they need without exposure.
The need for alternative elder care, as the world battles this pandemic, is not just obvious, it’s urgent.
Immediate Access to Care For Those Most at Risk
Telemedicine can bring advanced and faster care to the elderly in several ways. By utilizing telehealth, providers can treat with diagnostic, therapeutic, and care management services that otherwise would have needed to be provided in-person and thus with increased risk. Telehealth has the ability to be an effective tool for improving access to care, lowering costs, and preventing the spread of infectious diseases to the at-risk senior population.
4 Benefits of Implementing Telehealth for Seniors During COVID-19
- Preventing Spread to the Most Vulnerable Population
Many assisted living facilities lack on-site physicians, which means medically fragile patients are transported to emergency rooms. This creates increased risk from coronavirus infection where hospital visits can accelerate decline for elderly patients who often suffer from diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and congestive heart failure (CHF, Telemedicine can also connect nursing home residents to specialized medical expertise without having to leave the facility – a connection that allows patients with comorbidities to isolate but get the healthcare attention they need. isolation.
- Increasing Access to Care
While certain areas of the country become hotbeds for the novel coronavirus, not all doctors are burdened equally. Providing seniors with virtual care not only protects them from exposure, but it allows care delivery load balancing and capacity management. While a specialist in one region might be overwhelmed with COVID-19 cases, another specialist might be in a region that hasn’t been as heavily hit. In August 2019, before the novel coronavirus hit American soil, a study by InCrowd revealed that 79 percent of physicians described themselves as burned out, as did 57 percent of specialists. As providers are put under even more serious stress, load balancing through telehealth can be the best option for limiting physician burnout while simultaneously increasing patient access to care.
- Improving Quality Time
By providing telehealth appointments with clinicians who are not overloaded, we can increase the quality time patients spend with clinical professionals. While all long-term care facilities are required to have clinical professionals on staff 24 hours per day, the number of patients in beds dictates the number of required clinical resources provided. The reality of this can mean that there might only be one doctor and patients might only receive 5-minutes of care. By providing virtual health visits, long term care facilities can spend more time with patients, provide higher quality care and potentially increase their rating in the five-star quality rating system.
- Preparing for Telehealth Restrictions
While previous telehealth restrictions have been loosened, allowing for clinicians to utilize video features like FaceTime, eventually the dust surrounding COVID-19 will settle. While it’s unlikely that we will entirely go back to the same restrictions prior to COVID-19, it is almost certain that pieces protecting information security, like HIPAA restrictions, will be reinstated quickly. Implementing a telehealth solution that can continue to be utilized after restrictions are reinstated will allow for prolonged protection of this vulnerable population.
Protecting Seniors with Telemedicine
Telemedicine can offer a vital lifeline for seniors most at risk during this pandemic. Its ability to offer immediate specialized medicine, while simultaneously allowing for limited exposure, can not only elevate care delivery across an already stretched medical network but also create a healthier environment for this at-risk population.