June 10, 2013
You know how hard it can be for older patients to get to all the appointments they have. A trip to the doctor can be a big ordeal. They have to keep track of appointment dates and times, modify their daily routine to make time for the appointment, and possibly arrange for transportation assistance. But what if there was a way to help ensure they get the care they require in a more efficient way, for both them and for you? Remote access care through telemedicine might be an answer.
Telemedicine is an overarching term for care delivered remotely, using computers, telephone lines, and dedicated technologies. Telemedicine can provide high quality care in an affordable and timely manner, according to the American Telemedicine Association (ATA). Indeed, the ATA notes that about 10 million Americans benefitted from some sort of telemedicine program in 2011.
Benefits of Telemedicine
According to a 2009 government report on telemedicine, its use could be of particular use for patients with chronic conditions. Remote monitoring, sharing of data with the entire care team, and real time access to patient vitals could help reduce the large burden chronic illnesses place on the healthcare system. More on caring for those with chronic conditions is available at returninghome.com.
Along with financial and health benefits, ATA surveys indicate patients want this kind of access. One reason is that it reduces travel, which can be stressful for older patients and their families.
Practical Uses for Telemedicine
There are many ways to use telemedicine. Remote video consultations are great for follow-up discussions about tests and new medication regimens, or for patient and family education that might need repeating or be complex. Many telemedicine systems allow for remote monitoring and transmission of vital signs, blood sugar, and patient weight. This lets you see patient data more regularly and in real time. Patients with implantable devices like pacemakers are another target market. Providers can check on suspected arrhythmias or other issues as they happen.
10 Tips to Help Senior Patients Benefit from Telemedicine
Consider these best practices for implementing a telemedicine program at your practice.
- Make enrollment easy. Make it an opt-out program, rather than opt-in. Alternatively, provide an incentive for patients to try the service.
- Allay fears. Stress the positives: less travel, more time with providers, and easier scheduling. Encourage family participation during appointments if that makes them more comfortable.
- Emphasize easier access. Without the need to get from home to office and find transportation that doesn’t interfere with family members’ time, quality healthcare becomes less of a burden for everyone.
- Less pain, more gain. With less transportation comes less risk of injury for patients who might not be mobile without using assistive devices like walkers and wheelchairs, and for whom getting in an out of cars and up stairs can be difficult.
- Enlist allies. Some seniors might feel less than technologically adept. Solicit help from family members to set up whatever computer devices are required for the program you implement. It doesn’t take much – a web camera and telephone line connected up to a basic computer works in most cases.
- Check the rules. Medicare has rules for telemedicine. If you have clients that pay using Medicare, check the guidelines for telemedicine, available through the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.
- Practice first. Before you start working directly with patients, do run-throughs and practice sessions. It’s especially important for senior patients that the technology on your end allows you to communicate as clearly and audibly as possible. Be sure to check issues like lighting, busy backgrounds, and noise levels.
- Testing! Testing! Be sure to try any new hardware or software before you go live.
- Smile! You’re on camera! Look directly at the camera to mimic looking at the patient. Even though a remote access consultation eliminates the literal personal touch, it’s important to maintain the feel of a personal one-on-one, which you can do through eye contact. Don’t try to multi-task while the patient is talking; give the patient your attention as you would if he or she is there in person.
- Be a plain Jane. To avoid strange video effects, wear plain colored clothing, not wild patterns.
Improved access, lower cost, the potential for superior care quality, and patient demand are all reasons to consider adding telemedicine services for your patients. Learn more about improving communication between senior patients and senior care professionals.
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