4 Strategies to Optimize Telehealth for Geriatric PatientsCaitlin ClementMay 12, 20226 minute read
Increased access and investment into telehealth services has encouraged greater independence among geriatric patients. The nature of virtual health care means older adults are able to stay in the comfort of their homes for longer. For patients receiving care in skilled nursing or assisted living facilities, telehealth allows seniors to easily dial into appointments with off-site clinicians. Taking away the stress of arranging transportation from both the patient and facility.
However, telehealth’s reliance on technology has caused some doubt and is recognized as a virtual barrier for some older patients. According to a 2020 study published in the National Library of Medicine, 82% of patients in the United States (mean age of 82.7) required assistance from a family member or paid caregiver to complete a visit.
Of those who needed assistance, 46.6% were recorded to have some form of dementia. Meaning, assistance was most likely medically required to use the service. This leaves 35.6% of the studied population needing assistance without medical necessity. Sure, that’s certainly better than 82%, but when you apply it to the entire geriatric population (75+) from 2019, that’s 22.6 million people.
The goal of telehealth is to make sure everyone, regardless of age, has access to quality healthcare from anywhere. For older patients successfully utilizing telehealth, it’s been a game changer in managing chronic conditions. For those who still struggle, there’s more we could be doing. This blog will cover four key strategies you can use to help strengthen your telehealth delivery for geriatric patients.
1. Let go of misconceptions (Don’t Assume)
It’s a commonly misunderstood notion that older generations have no interest in using technology. This is simply not true. As a result, geriatric healthcare providers and telehealth companies alike can forget to keep them in mind when creating virtual care plans.
According to the American Psychological Association (APA), 7 in 10 older adults have and use a computer, smart phone, or tablet with internet access at home. Meanwhile, only 11% actually feel comfortable using telehealth. This needs to change. Those working in the digital health field must prioritize and provide value-based care by communicating virtual care options clearly to their older patients.
2. ADA & WCAG Compliant Platform
This should be a priority for any website/virtual platform in any industry or field. Making sure accessibility standards are met creates an inclusive environment and invites a good user experience for anyone. This is especially true for digital healthcare.
Patients are using these platforms to help manage chronic health problems and disabilities that may affect how they can interact with the technology. For those in the geriatric population, 85% suffer from chronic conditions due to sensory, motor, and cognitive changes. Making it difficult for them to navigate the platform and, ultimately, creating a bad user experience. Now, because accessibility standards weren’t met, the patient has already had a negative experience without fully utilizing the service.
How do you know if you meet ADA and WCAG standards?
Run your website through an ADA Compliance Checker. Many compliance companies who provide ADA and WCAG compliance services offer automated free website scans to find and fix any accessibility issues. Here are a few of them:
If you’re able to invest in and have the time to update your website/platform to the correct standards, do it. It’ll only encourage patients to utilize more telehealth services down the road.
3. Provide telehealth support
At the end of the day, older patients may need a little more initial tech support to get them started—but that’s okay. It’s the health professional and telehealth companies job to make sure patients have a seamless experience. Here are some extra steps you can take to make sure they have everything they need:
Provide them with a clear understanding of what to expect. Call the patient prior to the appointment to give instructions, test the telehealth platform, or make sure the patient is comfortable using the technology.
Send them written instructions as well. It can give them something to reference when they have questions. Keep in mind font size and type when sending written material for those with sensory and vision impairments.
During the initial telehealth visit, take a little extra time to make sure they understand their care plan. This might include checking to confirm they know how to use any remote patient monitoring (RPM) devices correctly. Also, encourage them to ask any clarifying questions they may have.
4. Reassure and build rapport
Trying something new can be intimidating for anyone, so why would it be different for geriatric patients? Reassure your patients and let them know telehealth sessions can be a little awkward at first but it will get more comfortable over time. When you're open and honest with patients, it can help build up rapport. You can also do this by maintaining eye contact with the camera and participating in active listening.
Active listening is when a provider shows a patient that they are 100% engaged with them during the visit. It has been the case that sometimes, patients can feel as though they are intruding on the provider's time, which should never be the case. To work on becoming a better active listener, try the following:
Listen carefully to each element of a patient’s conversation
Repeat back what you have heard to the patient word for word. “So, what I hear you saying is...”
Ask the patient, “Is that correct?” to validate their feelings and ask their opinion on your perception.
Power a Better Patient Experience
Telehealth’s goal is to make quality healthcare accessible to anyone from anywhere. These four strategies can help providers, in-home caregivers and those in the digital health space, make that even more of a reality for geriatric patients. It’s important, however, that the industry continues to recognize virtual barriers and do what it can to fix them. That means utilizing new tools and continuing to learn from patient experiences.
With that in mind, we’d like to introduce OpenLoop! Our company provides intuitive technology customized for your business and your patients. With our nationwide network of experienced licensed clinicians, we partner with skilled nursing facilities (SNFs), assisted living facilities, and virtual care companies to pair our highly trained geriatric professionals with your patients. Making your patient’s access to quality healthcare easier.
Interested in what we can do for your organization? Get in touch here!
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Jess Greiner Director, Marketing