Although telehealth is becoming more popular among all our nation’s demographics, it appears to singularly target millennial users. While telehealth has zeroed in on improving patient engagement for millennials, one could say that it has turned a blind eye to its largest audience — seniors. Despite millennials surpassing baby boomers as the largest population in the United States at 75.4 million, by 2029 the last of the baby boomer generation will turn 65, growing from 14.9 percent of the population to 21 percent, according to the United States Census Bureau.
The Benefits of Senior Telehealth
With seniors quickly becoming the largest population to benefit from telehealth’s new technology, it is becoming more important than ever to place the focus of telehealth on the senior patient population to reduce healthcare costs and increase patient engagement.
According to the Department of Health and Human Services’ Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, treatment for patients with multiple conditions can cost up to seven times as much as patients with only one chronic condition. With 80.1 percent of Americans over the age of 65 reporting multiple chronic conditions, telehealth adoption can greatly contribute to lowered healthcare costs and improved patient engagement.
The Senior Challenge in Using Telehealth Technology
While the benefits of telehealth for the senior population are vast, today’s seniors face multiple obstacles in realizing them. First and foremost, a large portion of the senior population still prefers in-person visits with their providers. As the baby boomer generation has historically valued face-to-face interactions in customer service, the video aspect of telehealth technology can be a significant drawback for this group.
In addition to the fear of losing the human connection when using telehealth technology, many seniors have concerns about their ability to interpret health information when using an online portal after a virtual telehealth visit. While in-person appointments with providers allow for a more thorough, intimate explanation of health information, the use of online portals following a virtual visit can require a higher degree of independence from the patient.
How to Reach Seniors and Caregivers
Although the senior population faces certain challenges in the use of telehealth solutions, there are several ways in which healthcare organizations can reach seniors and their caregivers with telehealth solutions.
For starters, explaining the importance of telehealth in terms of patient engagement is a meaningful way to introduce seniors to this new technology. An initial introduction highlighting telehealth’s benefits and their relevance to the senior population can be extremely significant in educating seniors.
In-person demonstrations showing how to use online portals and participate in virtual visits can also increase the senior population’s comfort level in navigating telehealth solutions.
Finally, providing seniors and their caregivers with the appropriate tools to contact tech support for any issues that they may encounter while using telehealth technology can be effective in encouraging the senior population to use telehealth.