Doctors on Demand: Is Telehealth Right for Your Senior Parent?
Adult children of elder parents are often on the hunt for ways to improve the lives of their mothers and fathers. A common focus is enhancing parents’ health, including ensuring reliable access to healthcare providers. In this regard, senior parents’ adult children often wonder whether telehealth makes sense for their mothers and fathers. In this article, we explore “doctors on demand” and whether or not telehealth is a good choice for your parents.
What Is Telehealth?
As is the case with so many things in the Digital Communications Age, telehealth has a developed definition provided by the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology. Telehealth is defined as:
Electronic information and telecommunications technologies support long-distance clinical health care, patient and professional health-related education, public health, and health administration.
From a practical layperson’s standpoint, this technical term means hopping onto a smartphone or computer and having an appointment with your doctor – without even leaving the comfort of your own home.
It is important to note that telehealth providers have developed apps for smartphones. They also have easily navigable websites through which appointments can be arranged and undertaken.
There are some elements of using telehealth that could benefit your senior parent. These include:
- Swifter access to medical assistance
- Peace of mind
Older Americans tend to need to undertake rather frequent appointments with their doctors. Some seniors may be dealing with a disease, illness, or condition that has been treated for some time. This type of situation can require regular and recurring check-ins with a doctor to ensure that a patient is progressing and feeling well.
Some seniors have chronic health conditions that require ongoing management. These include conditions like:
While some appointments do need to be in person, not all do. There are consultations associated with both acute and chronic illnesses, diseases, and conditions that can be accomplished appropriately using telehealth.
Another reason why telehealth can prove to be beneficial to your senior parent is found regarding cost. Time and again, telehealth is proving to be an affordable way to access healthcare for people from all walks of life – including older Americans.
The costs of a doctor’s appointment vary for various reasons, including the length of the visit, the purpose, and even the geographic location. That said, a shorter in-person doctor’s visit costs $136 to $176. Depending on the circumstances, Medicare and supplemental insurance can cover some of these expenses. However, depending on the frequency and nature of visits to a doctor, an older American can be hit with bills for these services.
Telehealth visits tend to cost between $40 and $50. Insurance tends to cover this expense with increasing regularity across the United States.
Remember that you can enjoy other savings through telehealth that add up over a year. For example, the cost of gasoline has reached dramatic highs recently. When you consider those savings over a year, saving money on gas is a rather significant amount. If your senior parent uses some ride or transport service to get to some medical appointments, that also saves money.
Swifter Access to Medical Assistance
Telehealth nearly always provides a person with swifter access to medical assistance. In many cases, your senior parent can schedule a same-day telehealth appointment.
As an aside, telehealth typically offers appointments beyond what typically is considered standard medical office business hours. This includes evenings, weekends, and even holidays.
Peace of Mind
Thanks to obtaining prompt or even immediate appointments, telehealth is proving to be particularly helpful in providing a senior (or any other telemedicine user) peace of mind. This peace of mind can be experienced in several ways.
First, there is peace of mind knowing that you can access a doctor quickly. Second, peace of mind is associated with getting information about a medical matter in a relatively short period.
The importance of an older individual having peace of mind associated with knowing he or she has solid access to appointments with a qualified healthcare provider cannot be overstated. In many ways, telehealth enhances a senior’s peace of mind regarding access to a doctor.
An often overlooked benefit of telehealth for seniors is that it provides an older individual with greater independence. A considerable number of older individuals depend on others for transportation. This complicates scheduling medical appointments, including routine ones for similar matters. A senior who relies on others for transport understandably is at the will of others when making medical and other types of appointments.
With telehealth, a senior – even one who normally relies on others for transportation – can independently make certain medical appointments by consulting and making arrangements with someone else beyond the healthcare provider.
An important final note on telehealth is necessary. Keep in mind that telehealth is not designed or intended to completely take the place of in-person visits to the doctor’s office. It is intended to assist in dealing with various medical concerns that can effectively and appropriately be dealt with via a digital connection with a doctor. There will always be times when a doctor must see a patient face to face to diagnose a medical condition properly. Nonetheless, there are other times when telehealth is a wholly appropriate and highly effective alternative.