Telehealth and Technology Bring Health Care into the Home

Until recently, the challenges associated with aging — like slowing motor reflexes affecting driving and the ability to get one’s self to a doctor’s appointment or the grocery store — have created a barrier to aging at home. However, a recent Brighthouse Financial report examines advances in technology and its ability to remove some of those barriers.

The telehealth boom — the exponential increase in patients utilizing virtual health care appointments online thanks to the need created by the coronavirus pandemic — is expected to continue to grow, as are such other services as grocery delivery. These services enable people to stay at home more often.

Telemedicine is “the modern-day version of an old-fashioned idea: Bring the doctor to the patient instead of requiring the patient to visit the doctor” (Brighthouse Financial report). The increased safety created by telehealth appointments — along with the subsequent reduction in ER visits and hospital stays — helped convince the federal government to change the Medicare rules governing telemedicine in spring 2020, thus enabling more people enrolled in Medicare to have access to covered telehealth appointments.

Patients Save Time and Money

A study at Frederick Health Hospital in Maryland found that its telehealth program for patients with chronic conditions reduced ER visits by half and decreased hospitalizations by 90 percent. The same report found that the average consumer saves about $100 for each telehealth visit, including travel costs and time spent looking for care. The CDC reports that people over 65 visit a physician’s office some 5 times more than the average rate of visits for the general population. If even half of those visits are telehealth instead, the savings over a 30-year retirement could be around $7,500.

The Monthly Telehealth Regional Tracker reports that the percentage of health insurance claims that included a telehealth visit has grown dramatically during the pandemic. Frost and Sullivan adds that the telemedicine market could grow to seven times its 2021 size by the end of 2025.

The Future: Smarter Houses, Remote Check-Ups, Saved Lives

Additionally, many experts project that “connected health care” — medical equipment with remote monitoring capabilities, such as pulse oximeters and blood pressure cuffs — will increase and could include enhanced versions of devices that already exist in many homes: refrigerators, scales, medicine dispensers, and more. Such technology might enable older adults to reduce the number of hours they need to have a home health care worker and, in some instances, a homemaker assistant. Mobile apps can help people schedule transportation, order meals, shop for groceries, and receive medication reminders. Such remote monitoring has the potential of saving not only health care costs, but lives. Devices like Kardia Mobile (a single-lead EKG monitor that fits in a wallet), Medtronic pacemaker monitors, and even the Apple Watch — which calls emergency services when the wearer is not responsive — not only help monitor your health: they can save your life.

In the next Third Chapter Living blog entry, we’ll look at a program that’s working — Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE) — and what we all can do to ensure it continues to meet the needs of older adults. Learn more about Third Chapter Living by visiting our Facebook page, Senior Housing Hunt.

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