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  • Ritu Shah

COVID-19 pandemic drives telehealth boom, but older adults can't connect

Dear Pharmacists,

Since many of our members might be in touch with older adults on a daily basis, this information might be helpful.

Trump Administration Proposes to Expand Telehealth Benefits Permanently for Medicare Beneficiaries Beyond the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency and Advances Access to Care in Rural Areas. The ongoing pandemic has increased the video visits between patients and the doctors, however this shift has lead to many older adults not receiving health care, as they can't connect.

A study by researchers at UC San Francisco has found that more than a third of adults over age 65 face potential difficulties seeing their doctor via telemedicine, with the greatest challenges experienced by older, low-income men in remote or rural areas, especially those with disabilities or poor health. The findings appear online Aug. 3, 2020, in JAMA Internal Medicine.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and other organizations have promoted video visits to reach patients at home, but these visits require patients to have the knowledge and capacity to get online, operate and troubleshoot audiovisual equipment, and communicate without the cues available during a personal visit.  

Thus, while increasing the access to telehealth benefits it is also important to overcome the high prevalence of inexperience with technology and disability in the older population.

For more information:

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