Telehealth, the use of digital technology to provide remote healthcare services, has improved healthcare reach for older adults, offering a simple and efficient way to receive medical care without leaving the comfort of home. Remote medical consultations via video or phone are gaining popularity for their convenience and reliability. Getting started with telehealth for seniors involves several vital steps to ensure a frictionless transition to virtual consultations.

Benefits of virtual visits for seniors

  • Convenience: No more battling traffic or long clinic waits! Receive quality care from the comfort of your home.
  • Accessibility: Overcome mobility limitations and access specialists you might not be able to visit in person.
  • Safety: Telehealth minimises exposure to germs in waiting rooms, especially crucial for seniors with weaker immune systems.
  • Chronic disease management: Regular telehealth consultations allow for closer monitoring of chronic conditions, leading to timely interventions and adjustments to treatment plans.
  • Family involvement: Family members can participate in appointments, fostering a collaborative approach to healthcare.
  • Cost-effective: Telehealth eliminates travel and time spent waiting in clinics, leading to potential cost savings.
  • Improved continuity of care: Frequent telehealth interactions with the patient’s regular healthcare providers promote better overall health management.

The barriers and their solutions

Telehealth may be extremely valuable to the elderly, but various challenges might prevent them from accessing and effectively using telehealth services. Here are some frequent roadblocks and possible solutions:

Technological challenges:

  • Issue: Many older persons may find it difficult to utilise devices.
  • Solution: It is best to use familiar devices and interfaces. They could be more comfortable using mobile phones for telehealth rather thana computer or laptop, as the use of mobile phones is much more in their daily life. It may also help if the technology is simplified, for example, using a touchscreen with huge icons.

Privacy issues:

  • Issue: During telehealth consultations, elderly patients could worry about the confidentiality and privacy of their health information.
  • Solution: Choose a telehealth platform that prioritises your privacy and is conformant to the Australian Digital Health Agency. These telehealth services ensure the confidentiality of your personal information, and the secure software stores your data on encrypted servers within Australia. 

Resistance to change:

  • Issue: Seniors may be inclined towards the traditional way of healthcare - travelling to the clinic and meeting the doctor face to face without knowing that in some situations, similar healthcare and support can be provided to them in their own homes. 
  • Solution: It is important to know the benefits of telehealth - the convenience, reduced travel time, and ease of access. The doctors and health professionals in telehealth are equally qualified as the ones in the clinic and can be accessed 24 hours, including public holidays. However, it is important to note that telehealth services should augment rather than completely replace the patient’s existing relationship with their regular GP.

Which telehealth services are available?

With a plethora of remote healthcare choices available, telehealth services have grown tremendously. Usually, these services are provided via safe telehealth platforms that follow privacy laws about healthcare. They offer easy access to medical specialists without the need for in-person consultations, which is particularly advantageous for senior citizens or people with mobility impairments. Here are some common telehealth services available:
  1. Online medical certificates: During telehealth consultations, patients can get medical certificates online, also known as sick notes, from healthcare practitioners online. However, not all conditions are suitable for a medical certificate to be issued online and may require an in-person assessment with the doctor.
  2. Prescriptions (scripts): Doctors can write prescriptions online for medication that patients can pick up at local pharmacies or have it delivered to their homes. Certain medications (eg. controlled substances) may not be able to be prescribed via the telehealth consultation.
  3. General practitioner (GP) access: Patients can use telehealth platforms to consult with GPs about a wide range of health issues, from basic check-ups to chronic disease management.
  4. Referrals for specialists: GPs can refer patients to experts based on remote consultations and assessments of their health needs.
  5. Mental health treatment plan: Telehealth platforms allow mental health practitioners to conduct evaluations, diagnose disorders, and establish treatment strategies online. However, complex mental health conditions may require an in-person assessment.
  6. Pharmacy delivery service: Some telehealth services provide home delivery of medications at a convenient time through online pharmacy delivery.
It is important to remember that telehealth consultations are not appropriate in all cases, and where the patient is acutely unwell or requires a physical examination, these can not be adequately assessed via telehealth.

Preparing for telehealth appointments for seniors

Preparing for telehealth consultations entails several measures to guarantee your comfort and ability to fully benefit from the virtual healthcare experience. By preparing yourself for telehealth sessions in this way, you may feel more secure and involved in your virtual healthcare contacts, thereby enhancing the overall experience and health results. Here are some tips through which you can enhance your telehealth experience. 
  1. Choose a familiar device with a reliable internet connection.
  2. Install and become comfortable with the telehealth app/software.
  3.  Choose a quiet, well-lit space with comfortable seating.
  4. Create a list of your current symptoms, duration, and severity. Also include a list of your medications, including dose and frequency, to discuss with your healthcare professional.
  5. Talk clearly and straight into the microphone during the appointment so that the healthcare professional can hear them well.
  6. Have a thermometer, a blood pressure monitor and any other relevant home devices ready.
  7. Prepare a list of questions or concerns ahead of time to ensure that all subjects are covered during the session.
  8. Discuss any follow-up measures suggested by the healthcare practitioner. Make sure that you understand the changes in medication or treatment plans.
  9. After the appointment, you may address any issues that arise and make necessary improvements for future virtual encounters.

What to do before a video visit?

To guarantee a seamless and efficient video visit (telehealth appointment), follow these steps:
  1. Use a computer, tablet, or smartphone with a reliable internet connection.
  2. Install and familiarise yourself with your healthcare provider's suggested telehealth platform or app.
  3. Check that your camera, microphone, and speakers are operating correctly.
  4. Make a note of the date, time, and any special instructions supplied by your healthcare practitioner (for example, login information or paperwork to complete ahead of time).
  5. Have any relevant medical records, test results, or medication lists handy for reference.
  6. Having a family member or caregiver present if needed for support to help with the technology.
So, telehealth is a beneficial resolution for seniors seeking accessible and effective healthcare services in certain situations. Accepting online medical consultations offers convenience and promotes regular medical check-ups. By making use of technology to bridge the gap between seniors and healthcare providers, telehealth plays a key role in improving overall health outcomes and quality of life for older adults.

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Disclaimer

This content is created for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the guidance of your doctor or other qualified health professional with any questions you may have regarding your health or a medical condition. For emergencies please immediately contact 000.