Telehealth holds appeal for seniors, survey shows

More than half of those polled by American Well say they're willing to use virtual visits – citing quicker healthcare service, time and money savings as big benefits.
By Nathan Eddy
10:27 AM

Better access to healthcare professionals and faster service are among the top reasons senior citizens are willing to embrace telehealth technologies, according to a survey sponsored by vendor American Well.

The survey of 400 American seniors (aged 65 years or older) revealed more than half (52%) are willing to use telehealth. Access to faster healthcare service was identified by nearly three-quarters (73%) of seniors as the main driver behind their willingness to use the technology.

Nearly six in 10 seniors surveyed looked at telehealth as a way to save time and money (54%), as well as a way to better access to providers (53%).

Of the seniors who are willing to use telehealth, 84% said they would use it for prescription renewals, while more than two-thirds said they would consider using video chats to manage chronic conditions.

American seniors are already comfortable with video call technology, the survey found, revealing 45% have used FaceTime, Skype or Google Hangout, and a quarter are already using a mobile phone health app.

In addition, updated reimbursement rules from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which go into effect in plan year 2020, will give seniors access to virtual doctors in their basic benefit packages, and telehealth will be reimbursed as part of Medicare Advantage plans.

We reported yesterday that telehealth in the United States is set for big boost, with $100 million in new funding from the Federal Communications Commission through the Connected Care Pilot Program, which would expand telehealth accessibility for rural and low-income Americans nationwide.

The FCC estimates that more widespread use of remote patient monitoring and virtual visits could save the American healthcare system $305 billion each year, while also enabling better health outcomes.

Earlier this month, home health and hospice provider NVNA and Hospice announced its telehealth and remote patient monitoring program led to a 40% drop in hospital readmissions among its palliative care patients.

"There's tremendous opportunity to engage and support seniors with telehealth," Danielle Russella, president of health plan solutions at American Well, said in a statement. "Supported by a magnitude of compelling forces that in the past have been barriers, issues of access, affordability, and awareness are fading.

“As the data shows, seniors are incredibly willing to embrace technology for their healthcare needs, which often require more personal, higher touch, coordinated care," she added. “This is an exciting time, as both seniors and patients at large, increasingly leverage technology to experience healthcare in the home."

Nathan Eddy is a healthcare and technology freelancer based in Berlin.
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Twitter: @dropdeaded209

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