4 Ways Telehealth is Changing the Face of Senior Living

“Meet George Jetson….” Most seniors will remember well the theme song to the popular Hanna- Barbera animated sitcom from the sixties about George Jetson and his family living in the space age. With eyes of wonder, Baby Boomers, then small children, watched George speak with his wife Judy via a telecommunication device that showed their faces. A telephone with a TV! It was amazing, and virtually incomprehensible that such a thing could ever exist. And now, those same seniors talk Jetson-style with their grandchildren – some routinely while living in the same city – others from across the world. Separation is no longer an issue.

And so, what’s not to love about telemedicine? Seniors grasp the idea—because a part of them still appreciates that the futuristic fiction of the Jetsons has come true. Doctors can talk to patients via telehealth. Patients can talk to doctors. Healthcare will never be the same.

Telehealth encompasses video doctor visits, but also the vast use of mobile devices, many of which focus on preventative medicine; a way of getting out in front of disease. This is important to seniors, who are particularly vulnerable to chronic disease. Prevention can make all the difference to the length of their lives and quality of life.

According to a RAND study, by 2020, there will be 157 million Americans living with chronic disease. Telehealth will help to care for them, with a variety of mobile apps, especially designed to improve maintenance care for chronic diseases that afflict seniors, such as diabetes, obesity, hypertension, coronary disease and asthma.

The Center for Connected Health Policy names four ways that telehealth can be life-changing to care through the use of:

1. Live video, or synchronous video, which provides a live, “real-time” two-way interaction between a patient, a caregiver and/or a provider by using audiovisual telecommunications technology. Live video can be used for both consultative and diagnostic and treatment services.

2. Store-and-forward, or asynchronous video is a transmission of recorded health history, such as pre-recorded videos and digital images such as x-rays and photos, through a secure electronic communications system to a practitioner, usually a specialist, who uses the information to evaluate the case or render a service outside of a real-time or live interaction.

3. Remote patient monitoring (RPM) is when personal health and medical data is collected from an individual in one location via electronic communication technologies, which is transmitted to a provider (sometimes via a data processing service) in a different location for use in care and related support. This type of service allows a provider to continue to track healthcare data for a patient once released to home or a care facility, reducing readmission rates and helps individuals stay healthy in their home and community, without having to physically go to the provider’s office.

4. Mobile health, or mHealth, uses applications, or apps, on cell phones and tablet computers in ways that range from promoting healthy behavior to wide-scale alerts about disease outbreaks.

“Our healthcare landscape is changing before our eyes,” says Eric Quinones, a thought leader in the healthcare industry and director of Healthcare at Slalom Consulting, a firm that designs and builds strategies and systems. “Risk is being shifted from payer to provider and now to patient. These are the types of mHealth applications that we will see empowering patients and their care teams to avoid a good portion of this risk. Having these tools will promote access, reduce cost, enhance care value, and pave the road toward better clinical results”.

Telehealth is somewhat new to most senior living communities, but its use is rapidly expanding as senior care executives embrace the ways it can retain residents, improve satisfaction, lower costs and improve health and well-being.

The use of telehealth in the senior setting is expanding faster than Baby Boomers can say “George Jetson.”

How is your senior living community making use of telehealth to improve care and resident satisfaction?

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