By Nicole Lipinski, RN, MS, ADC-MC, CDP
The concept of telehealth is not really a new concept. This concept in its earliest form dates back to the early 1900s. Pennsylvania was sending radiology images 24 miles via phone lines in the 1940s. The University of Nebraska was the first to use video communication for hospital consultations in 1959. These early beginnings set the stage for what we have fully developed now.
What exactly is telehealth? Telehealth is a branch of medicine which can be accessed by the treating medical professional and the patient virtually. This is an umbrella term for a host of services. These services can include telemedicine, mobile health, remote patient monitoring, and live patient interactions.
Telehealth has significant benefits for elderly patients. There is no need to worry about getting a ride and having to leave home. Often transportation to and from appointments hinders seniors from keeping appointments. Keeping in touch with a medical professional in the comfort of your own home alleviates some of that stress. The senior can also transmit results via portals for more accurate patient monitoring. Results such as blood glucose results, blood pressure, and daily weights can be sent from your computer or even your smartphone. This helps to prevent unnecessary testing and the medical professional can monitor closely to make changes as needed. Hopefully, this helps to avoid hospitalizations.
Live interactions can be used to talk one on one with your doctor about concerns or needed updates to your medical conditions. This is especially important to seniors who may need to check in with the doctor about changes in condition or new onset of symptoms. There is no need to wait for another appointment. Sometimes the wait time between appointments can be very long; this can help to eliminate that wait.
When there are positives, there are always negatives. The negatives can be that you may get in touch with a medical professional in the group, but it may not be your doctor. Seniors may not feel comfortable speaking to alternative medical professionals. The other problem is that not all medical professionals provide this service. So—while you may have a specialty care provider who will provide the service, you will have other treating physicians who do not participate.