West Health Researchers Discuss Senior Citizen Telehealth

New research by experts from West Health has been published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society exploring the potential of telehealth in providing seniors with improved care, along with suggestions and a strategy for future use.The commentary was based on a study conducted by researchers at the University of North Carolina and the University of Pittsburgh and included 208 participants over the age of 65. The study’s main focus was to understand patient experience when using voice or video telehealth for primary care. 

It became evident throughout the COVID-19 crisis that telehealth offered a variety of advantages to both patients and clinicians. These advantages included additional alternatives while also enhancing access to care and improving patient outcomes. “The COVID-19 pandemic brought to light the immense value of telemedicine to remotely connect patients and doctors for a wide range of healthcare needs,” says Liane Wardlow, PhD, senior director of Clinical Research and Telehealth at West Health, in a press release. “But when treating older patients, we see that telemedicine falls short in many important ways. The problem is that remote healthcare delivery simply wasn’t designed with the needs of older people in mind.”

The study found that, regardless of age, telehealth was widely appreciated by all respondents. In addition, the research indicated that many individuals desire for telehealth to be an option even though there is a general preference for in-person treatment. The researchers contend in the editorial that a framework is required for providers to overcome obstacles to seniors adopting telehealth. In accordance with the framework, telehealth must be person-centered, equitable, and accessible, and it must be successfully integrated and coordinated with care plans. The researchers make a number of further suggestions. These include improving access to relevant advanced treatment planning documentation, providing patient experience and satisfaction surveys, providing records of telehealth visits to patient primary care providers, and improving training programs for virtual senior citizen treatment. 

“Without these guardrails, telehealth may further segment care, thereby increasing the chances of low-value care while further exacerbating health inequities,” the authors wrote in the editorial. “With these guardrails in place, however, telehealth has the potential to realize its promise of improving access to high-value, equitable, safe, timely and convenient care to older adults.”