Healthcare provision models have been reimagined in recent months to deliver remote support for patients during lockdown. Telemedicine is one of the solutions being used instead of in-person consultations but the technology is posing problems for older citizens, a study by researchers at UC San Francisco shows.
According to the research more than a third of adults aged over 65 encounter difficulties with the tech. Reasons including being unable to operate internet-enabled devices, or having limited internet access, were identified.
“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 older adults are not left behind during this migration.”
Mr Lam added: “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. 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.”
Another American study released today indicates public perceptions regarding the healthcare options available have resulted in steep drops in emergency department visits. Examining health systems in Colorado, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, and North Carolina, Yale and the Mayo Clinic researchers discovered visits fell between 41.5% and 63.5% in March and April, compared to January and February.
“We said, ‘stay home,’ and what people heard was: ‘Stay home at all costs to avoid COVID-19,” said lead author Dr. Edward R. Melnick, associate professor of emergency medicine.
Melnick and his fellow researchers are calling for more nuance in messaging to help citizens better understand what they should do. Because telemedicine innovations and emergency department services depend on good communication to function effectively.
“Our new rallying cry is that hospitals are safe,” Melnick added. “Few hospitals outside of New York approached going over capacity during March and April 2020. That means a lot of people suffering from non-COVID illnesses and injuries may have stayed home and unnecessarily suffered or even died because they were too scared to come in.”