Telehealth has grown almost sevenfold since COVID-19 began to spread. While virtual doctor visits and remote monitoring devices could make medical care more convenient and accessible for any patient, seniors may have the most to gain.
In March 2020, Medicare temporarily expanded coverage of telehealth services for most beneficiaries for office visits, preventive health screenings, and mental health services. At least some of these provisions may become permanent thanks to proposed legislation.
Find out how telehealth can help you to maintain your independence and take care of your mental and physical health. Study this quick guide for seniors who want to see a doctor without leaving home.
Benefits of Telehealth for Seniors:
- Enjoy more convenience. How far do you have to drive to your doctor’s office? With a virtual visit, you can forget about traffic and parking. Plus, if the doctor is busy, you can entertain yourself at home instead of being stuck in the waiting room.
- Treat chronic conditions. Almost 80% of seniors have at least one chronic condition, according to the National Council on Aging. Telehealth is ideal for the ongoing care needed to manage the typical symptoms of diabetes, cancer, and other chronic issues.
- Access specialists. Depending on where you live, you may be in for a long wait when you need a specialist. Online care is more efficient, so it may speed up the process.
- Support caregivers. Telehealth can also help family members and professionals who assist you with daily needs. Monitoring devices can free up their time by performing some routine tasks, and counseling can help reduce stress.
- Be proactive. Virtual care also empowers you to play a greater role in staying healthy. For example, you might prevent a crisis by taking your own blood pressure daily and uploading the results.
Tips for Using Telehealth:
- Master technology. Virtual visits can be as simple as using your phone or you may need some additional devices and apps. Many seniors are adept at technology. However, if you need help with the necessary technology, ask family, friends, or your local senior center for assistance.
- Book an appointment. Maybe you’ve already scheduled visits through the patient portal at your doctor’s office or local hospital. If you need instructions, visit their website or call for assistance. Then, you just need to log into the system a few minutes before your appointment starts.
- Provide information. Your doctor needs your input whether you see them online or face-to-face. Be prepared to fill out forms and describe your symptoms. You may also be asked to send a picture of your rash or stick out your tongue on a video call.
- Ask your insurer. Medicare and private insurance have increased coverage for telehealth procedures. Still, it’s wise to double check your insurance coverage first to avoid any unpleasant surprises.
Dealing with Limitations on Telehealth:
- Maintain continuity. You may have heard the term continuity of care, which refers to your relationship with your health provider. Experts recommend that you consider telehealth a supplement rather than a replacement for conventional visits.
- Report unusual symptoms. New and sudden symptoms are another reason to call your doctor. Early diagnosis will help you to receive correct treatment and increase your chances for recovery.
- Seek urgent care. Call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room when you need immediate attention. That would include any signs of a heart attack or stroke.
- Prevent fraud. Telehealth can be safe and effective, but the usual rules for online safety apply. Guard your passwords and use secure internet connections.
If you’re a senior, telehealth can help you to continue social distancing while receiving the medical care you need. Ask your doctor about which options are appropriate for you.