The Benefits of Telemedicine for Seniors
Being an aging senior means you often have to visit the doctor more frequently than before. Some days it may seem like all you do is head their way for another appointment. Frequent medical appointments can be obnoxious enough when you can drive, but once your loved ones take the keys away, it becomes that much harder to figure out how to get to the doctor’s office each time you need to.
Fortunately, this common problem is finding a solution in technology. Seniors who are sick of frequent visits can cut down on the time they spend commuting back and forth to the doctor with the help of telemedicine.
Telemedicine for Seniors
Telemedicine is medical care provided with the use of technology that cuts down on the time patients have to spend at the doctor’s office or in the hospital in person.
It includes talking to doctors over the phone or with video conferencing technology, and using remote monitoring technology to track vital signs and recognize health warning signs before they become a problem.
There are still some types of illnesses or injuries that will require trips to the doctor’s office, but there are a wide range of health care needs that can be addressed with telemedicine rather than in-person visits.
52% of hospitals are already using some type of telemedicine, so there’s a chance it may already be accessible to you where you are. As wider adoption confirms the benefits it offers to hospitals and patients alike, its use is likely to continue to spread.
Why Telemedicine Benefits Seniors
Telemedicine doesn’t just provide convenience – it offers a number of significant benefits that any senior can get excited about:
1. It can help you avoid hospital admissions.
One of the big reasons hospitals have embraced telemedicine is because of pressure to reduce readmissions. In one study of a hospital that implemented telemedicine for patients with cardiovascular issues, readmission rates fell by 44%. That’s good for hospitals that save money by cutting down on readmission rates, but it’s even better for the patients that get to avoid that time in the hospital.
Think about all the things you’d rather be doing with your time than lying in a hospital bed waiting to get well enough for a doctor to say you can leave. Telemedicine helps seniors avoid that scenario, so you can spend more of your time living your life outside of hospital walls.
2. It’s cheaper.
Multiple studies on telemedicine have found that it reduces medical costs. That makes a certain amount of practical sense. It saves everyone involved time (and time is money, as the saying goes). If patients use technology that continually monitors their vital signs, then they and their doctors are more likely to be aware of their health status at any given moment and less likely to face health care emergencies – which are the most expensive type of care.
As our country faces growing health care costs that make it hard for patients to get the care they need without dealing with monetary hardship because of it, a solution that reduces costs while improving outcomes is a win-win.
3. It reduces your likelihood of a nursing home stay.
Less time in the hospital is good; avoiding time in a nursing home is even better. A senior living community that used health monitoring devices to help staff more quickly learn about falls – or other health issues their patients experienced – found that the technology reduced the number of their patients moving to nursing homes from 20% to 12%.
While nursing homes have an important role to play in health care, most seniors would prefer to avoid a stay in one. Telemedicine helps make that possible.
4. It saves you from all those trips.
The most obvious benefit it offers to seniors is that it saves you the trouble of arranging transportation to get to and from the doctor’s office every time you need medical help or a medical opinion.
No more having to ask friends for rides. No more sitting in traffic on the way. No more spending time trying to find a parking spot in an overcrowded lot. Making a Skype call is so much easier.
5. You (and your doctor) will know when there’s a problem.
Using technology to monitor your health means that, even without going to the doctor as often, you and your doctor will both know right away when something’s wrong that you need to address.
Before you have a heart attack, for instance, your monitoring device will alert you to signs that one may be coming so you can take steps with your doctor to reduce your risk.
6. You avoid hospital germs.
One of the unavoidable downsides of hospital visits, and especially longer hospital stays, is that you’re surrounded by other people that are sick. Seniors often have weaker immune systems than other age groups, so a little bit of access to hospital germs is a bigger deal for an 80-year old than it is for a 30-year old. Keeping some distance from other sick people a little more often can mean you spend less time sick yourself.
That reduces the likelihood of health emergencies and improves outcomes for the patients that use telemedicine. The convenience of telemedicine is nice, but the bigger appeal is that it makes you healthier and safer.
Telemedicine is still relatively new, but it’s already produced impressive results. It makes health care more affordable and convenient for seniors, makes life easier for caregivers and enables physicians to provide a high level of care while saving time as well.
You’ll still need to see your doctor in person now and then for some things, but with the help of technology, you can save on much of the expenses and trouble of those in-person visits and still get the care you need.