Sometimes you need to consult with a healthcare provider, but there are barriers that prevent you from meeting them in-person. Maybe you don’t have a means of transportation or you simply don’t have the time and money to spend on traveling to the hospital or doctor’s office for a perfunctory visit.
Whatever the case may be, telehealth has become a viable option for seniors in Federal Way to receive a good portion of the medical care they require, with added benefits for caregivers as well. It can make the delivery of healthcare easier and more accessible, enabling seniors to be self-sufficient and independent for longer.
What is Telehealth?
Telehealth is an umbrella term that refers to the virtual delivery of various healthcare services. Within the field of telehealth, there are different categories of care: telemedicine and mobile health.
Telemedicine refers to two-way, live conferencing between you and your doctor, nurse or other provider. It gives you the opportunity to “meet” virtually and receive care from them, no matter where you are.
Mobile health, on the other hand, is commonly used to describe you as the patient self-monitoring your symptoms, treatments and side effects and tracking the data to transfer to your provider using an electronic device, such as a smartphone or laptop. Sometimes seniors also wear medical alert devices that can detect falls or other dangerous situations and send an alert to emergency responders.
In general, telehealth is more effective for monitoring and treating existing medical conditions and chronic conditions as opposed to diagnosing new illnesses or responding to emergency situations. However, it can be a good starting point if you’re experiencing a new problem. Based on preliminary information discussed during your telehealth appointment, your provider may be able to rule out certain health concerns and give you instructions for how to monitor the situation or detect a worsening condition. This is especially useful for issues or illnesses that can be easily and effectively diagnosed based primarily on symptoms, such as a urinary tract infection (UTI) or eye infections.
Benefits of Telehealth for the Elderly
Telehealth has rapidly grown in the past decade because of its potential for making healthcare more convenient, affordable and self-directed. The Coronavirus pandemic that started in 2020 and continues to persist has further compelled the proliferation of telehealth services and their suitability for seniors in Federal Way and Washington State in general.
Telehealth allows for monitoring elderly at home, even when family members and other caregivers aren’t able to travel safely or conveniently. They have the ability to check up on your status and ask questions of your provider by sending a message through a web portal. This creates an accessible space for three-way conversations. Having the knowledge that the caregiver, patient and healthcare provider are on the same page gives each party greater peace of mind.
Telehealth is also a potential solution to the common barriers to healthcare for seniors, such as limited transportation options. As you grow older, you may wish to travel less, or simply not be able to drive yourself to appointments anymore. Rather than having to rely on public transportation or rides from your family members and caregivers, you can meet with your provider from the comfort of your own home or retirement community. Seniors living out in rural areas can especially benefit from easier, more convenient access to healthcare. Using telehealth is also a way to mitigate travel to and from your seniors living community during the COVID-19 pandemic, which contributes to protecting the health of you, other residents and staff members.
For those dealing with long-term or chronic health conditions that necessitate frequent visits, this is especially helpful. You don’t have to deal with traveling constantly for appointments or those painfully long wait times at the clinic or doctor’s office.
Additionally, if your primary care provider needs input from a specialist, this interaction can happen virtually, eliminating your need to go to an extra appointment at a different time and location. Some clinical areas where telemedicine can contribute to timely and efficient treatment include: psychiatry, dermatology, ophthalmology, oncology and counseling.
Is Telehealth Safe for Seniors?
If you or your loved one are new to the telehealth world, you may be concerned about privacy and security. Initially, government regulations and insurance companies were slow to keep up with the evolving industry, undermining its vitality and effectiveness. Additionally, cybersecurity threats are always a potential risk when you’re dealing with remote, Internet-based interactions.
Some people also worry about continuity of care, which refers to engaging in a long-term partnership with your primary care provider. If you schedule virtual appointments with unfamiliar doctors or nurses through a video app, they don’t have the benefit of knowing your medical history. In the case of managing chronic health problems, telehealth is typically most effective when used as a supplement to in-person visits, not a replacement.
The best option is to talk with your primary doctor in Federal Way about incorporating telehealth into your comprehensive care plan. They can address your concerns and discuss options that will be affordable and convenient for you or your loved one.
Coordinating Telehealth Visits in Federal Way
Getting started with telemedicine and virtual health monitoring may be a bit daunting. Our staff at Village Green Retirement Campus is on hand to assist you in setting up appointments or contacting your healthcare provider remotely. We also offer residents laptops to use during their remote telehealth visit. Part of our mission is to support your health and wellbeing in a myriad of ways, which includes helping you access the necessary care you need in a convenient, efficient manner.