“To build an accessible telemedicine system, we need actionable plans and contingencies to overcome the high prevalence of inexperience with technology and disability in the older population.”
Telehealth has come a long way in addressing pressing concerns that bothered patients in the non-digital era. From consulting patients online to prescribing medicines, telehealth has transformed the industry. Recently, I came across a patient who spoke about how telehealth has made a difference in his life. Tom (name changed) during the Delta wave of the pandemic was suffering from breathlessness, so he suspected that Covid-19 had infected him. After a few days, he decided to visit a nearby diagnostic center to carry out a test, but couldn’t go, fearing the crowd present at the center might further complicate the situation. Meanwhile, his condition continued to deteriorate. Later, he decided to subscribe to an online telehealth platform called ‘Practo’. The platform has world-class doctors who never disappoint you. Long story short, he spoke to a doctor on the platform and they send a testing team to the patient’s place to carry out the virus test. Fortunately, he was safe that the virus had not infected him. In a nutshell, the doctor took stock of the patient’s situation, treating him as good as the good old days. In addition to the extraordinary services telehealth promises, the time-saving factor also comes into play. From traveling to the clinic to waiting in the queue, telehealth saves time abundantly; the factor generation-Z is the most concerned about.
This is the basic version of telehealth I presented above. Of course, there are sophisticated versions of telehealth such as performing surgery, etc. that continue to amaze us. A group of doctors operating on a patient with inputs from their senior sitting in a different country is not less than a miracle.
Moreover, telemedicine has become a norm as patients seem to bypass what bothered them in the past. However, there’s a hitch that older adults would find it difficult to get used to the digital health platforms. “Telemedicine is not inherently accessible, and mandating its use leaves many older adults without access to their medical care,” said lead author Kenneth Lam, MD, a clinical fellow in geriatrics at UCSF. “We need further innovation in devices, services, and policy to make sure that older adults are not left behind during this migration.”
“To build an accessible telemedicine system, we need actionable plans and contingencies to overcome the high prevalence of inexperience with technology and disability in the older population,” Lam said. “This includes devices with better-designed user interfaces to get connected, digital accommodations for hearing and visual impairments, services to train older adults in the use of devices and, for some clinicians, keeping their offices open during the pandemic.”
Mr. Lam was quoted as saying on the UCSF website.