Telemedicine offers a critical lifeline for those at risk of getting COVID infections and invalidates transportation as a restriction to medical treatment in rural or remote areas. However, it also presents problems related to patients’ access, quality, and equality while utilizing telemedicine, particularly for elderly patients.
In some cases, doctors will be able to come to the home of a relative or caretaker, but if they can’t, then telephone-based telemedicine may be the option.
In reviewing over 20,000 elderly patients, there was no significant difference in usage by age or gender, although the use differed by race. When it came to patients’ ethnicity, black patients would like to use telemedicine to obtain primary care, while Hispanic patients would not. A study found patients who had a telemedicine consultation had a reduced chance of hospitalization for illnesses.
However, the incidence of hospitalization among black patients who used telemedicine was more than for white patients. In the 85 and older age group, patients who used telemedicine were likewise at greater risk of hospitalization when compared to individuals ages 65 to 74.
The telehealth service must provide access to and training for telemedicine platforms for it to be successful. That may be a barrier for elderly individuals and those with limited internet access.
A third of all visits to physicians’ offices are for older individuals, who typically have a range of additional conditions and impairments.
The research estimated that 13 million people age 60 and over struggle to obtain telemedicine services. With about 6.3 million people 65 and older who have poor or no previous experience with technology and with age-related visual impairment, telephone calls may enhance access to technology for them. However, phone visits are unsatisfactory for accessing treatment that requires visual evaluation.
The community must find a way to overcome the digital gap. Beginning in early 2020, Medicare Services was paying for video and in-person visits at the same rates. That should make all treatments affordable and accessible. Health care providers and communications companies should provide insurance plans that cover the use of telecommunication equipment, particularly as universal telemedicine becomes more prevalent.