Older adult using a tablet to discuss medication with her doctor

The Benefits of Telemedicine for Older Adults: How Remote Medical Care Is Making Aging in Place Easier


Feeling under the weather? With a few clicks, anyone can get expert medical advice from the comfort of their living rooms. Telemedicine is on the rise: its value and importance was brought to the forefront during the pandemic when people remained isolated at home. Although telemedicine benefits people of all ages, it has been a crucial piece of the puzzle when it comes to the growing trend of aging in place. 

As individuals get older, they’d like to remain in their homes for as long as possible, surrounded by familiar settings and cherished memories. This proves challenging as health issues mount, and it grows especially challenging for older adults who live in rural areas with limited access to in-person medical care. Telemedicine is emerging as a transformative solution, offering convenient access to healthcare, fostering independence, and enhancing the overall well-being of older adults.

Understanding Aging in Place

Aging in place is the prevailing preference for older adults in the United States. According to the AARP’s 2021 “Home and Community Preferences Survey,” 77 percent of adults over the age of 50 would like to stay in their homes as they get older. The familiarity of one’s home environment provides a sense of comfort and security, and enables individuals to maintain their sense of independence.  Unfortunately, accessing in-person medical care while remaining at home can pose difficulties for older adults, especially those with mobility limitations or without access to transportation. And those who put off doctor visits may be more likely to end up in the hospital as their condition worsens. 

Understanding Rural Medicine and Limited Access to In-Person Care

For a significant number of older adults, rural living is a way of life. In fact, as of 2021 there was a larger percentage of adults 65+ in rural areas (20 percent) than in metro areas (16 percent), according to a 2022 United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) report. However, this lifestyle often means that access to medical facilities and specialists is limited. According to recent statistics, a substantial portion of older adults in rural areas face challenges in reaching healthcare facilities, due to limited access to public transportation, as well as an average distance of several miles to the nearest hospital or doctor’s office. This may lead to delayed medical attention and hinder timely treatment for health conditions.

The Rise of Telemedicine in Healthcare

Telemedicine, the remote delivery of healthcare services through various communication technologies, includes virtual consultations, remote monitoring of vital signs, and utilizing telehealth platforms. Popular specialties on leading telehealth platforms include primary care, behavioral health, and chronic disease management. The popularity of telemedicine has surged in recent years, driven by advancements in technology, increased internet accessibility, and the need for innovative healthcare solutions, especially during the pandemic.

Advantages of Telemedicine for Older Adults

One of the most significant advantages of telemedicine for older adults is the convenience it offers, as long as patients have reliable access to the internet and are comfortable using technology. With telemedicine, older adults can have medical consultations from the comfort of their homes, eliminating the need for travel, which can be difficult and costly. Telemedicine also reduces wait times, ensuring timely access to healthcare professionals, and promotes proactive healthcare planning, which may prevent hospitalizations.

Examples of Telemedicine Providers

There are a growing number of telehealth companies, which include many specialized providers. (Please keep in mind that if a health issue warrants an in-person visit, especially a hospital visit, you should immediately seek care at a medical facility.) Here are a few popular telehealth options:

Teladoc Health: Teladoc is one of the largest and most well-known telemedicine providers. They offer a wide range of telehealth services, including virtual consultations with physicians, mental health support, and chronic disease management. Teladoc has worked to improve accessibility for older adults, ensuring user-friendly interfaces and support for those who may not be as tech-savvy.

Sesame: Sesame offers specialties including cardiology, urology, dentistry, and primary care. It offers one-time visits or a membership model, and  prides itself on transparent pricing. 

Amwell: Amwell is another prominent telehealth company that caters to older adults. They offer 24/7 on-demand virtual doctor visits, behavioral health services, and more. For a steep price, older adults can seek a virtual  second opinion about a serious diagnosis from the Cleveland Clinic. 

MDLIVE: MDLIVE is a telemedicine platform that provides virtual doctor visits, behavioral health services, and dermatology consultations. They have worked to make their services accessible to people with chronic conditions.

Author Health: Author Health focuses on virtual care for older adults with mental health conditions and substance use disorders. It offers diagnostic evaluations, medication management, psychotherapy, caregiver support and help navigating the healthcare system. 

Telemedicine as a Supportive Tool for Caregivers

Telemedicine not only benefits older adults, but also serves as a valuable tool for caregivers who often shoulder the responsibility of managing their loved ones’ healthcare needs. With telemedicine, they gain remote access to medical professionals, allowing for more effective monitoring and timely intervention. They also don’t have to transport their loved one to and from appointments.  Furthermore, telemedicine enhances communication and coordination among caregivers, older adults, and healthcare providers.

Additionally, caregivers are at risk for their own health issues, due to the physical and psychological impacts of caregiving. Telemedicine provides them with access to medical care while they may be isolated at home, or without much time to go to in-person appointments. 

 Telemedicine Innovations for Older Adults

Healthcare technology is constantly created with the unique needs of older adults in mind. Today, telemedicine technologies offer specialized solutions for older adults, including remote monitoring devices that can detect falls, such as Fall Call or the Kanega watch,  and wearable health trackers like the Apple watch. These innovations empower older adults to actively participate in their health management, leading to better outcomes and increased independence.

Ensuring Quality and Safety in Telemedicine

While telemedicine presents numerous benefits, some older adults  may have concerns about adapting to new technologies. Barriers to entry include eyesight and hearing issues, inexperience with technology, trust issues, and lack of internet access. However, various platforms have addressed concerns by providing user-friendly interfaces and personalized support. Additionally, telemedicine providers adhere to stringent privacy and security protocols to ensure the safety of patient information and confidentiality.

The Future of Healthcare

Telemedicine has emerged as a game-changer in the realm of healthcare, particularly for individuals who aspire to age in place. By providing convenient access to medical care, telemedicine supports older adults’ independence and enhances their overall quality of life. For those living in rural areas with limited access to in-person care, telemedicine bridges the gap, ensuring that no one is left without the healthcare they deserve. As we look toward the future, telemedicine promises to play an increasingly crucial role in healthcare, reshaping the way we engage with our aging population.

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