Virtual Consultations: Telehealth and Older Adults
Telehealth allows patients to own visits with health care providers remotely using video technology. Such visits are increasingly available and have the potential to create health care more accessible and convenient for patients. In May 2019, the University of Michigan National Poll on Healthy Aging asked a national sample of adults age 50–80 about their experiences with and opinions of telehealth.
Experience with telehealth visits
About one in seven respondents (14%) said that their health care providers offered telehealth visits, which were defined as health care visits by video using smartphones or computers. quite half didn’t know if their providers offered telehealth visits (55%), while about one in three older adults indicated their health care providers didn’t offer telehealth visits (31%). Only 4% reported having had a telehealth visit within the previous year.
Telehealth vs. in-person office visits
Among older adults who had a telehealth visit, about half said the general convenience of a telehealth visit was better than an in-person office visit (47%), 36% believed an in-person office visit was better, and 18% thought the general convenience was identical. However, quite half indicated that in-person office visits were better than telehealth visits with relation to feeling cared for (56%), communicating with the health care professional (55%), and also the amount of your time spent with the health care professional (53%). Additionally, quite half viewed in-person office visits as better than telehealth visits in terms of overall quality of care (58%).
Interest in kinds of telehealth visits
Among older adults whose providers don’t offer telehealth visits, nearly half expressed interest (very or somewhat) in an exceeding telehealth visit with a medical care provider (48%), while two in five were fascinated by visits with a specialist (40%). quite one in three were fascinated by visits with a mental state professional (35%).
If offered, two in three of all respondents indicated they might have an interest in an exceeding telehealth visit for an unexpected illness while traveling (64%), nearly three in five for a return visit (58%), and quite half for a one-time follow-up after a procedure or surgery (55%). Fewer indicated that they might have an interest in an exceeding telehealth visit to debate a brand new pathological state (34%), a sensitive health issue (29%), or a mental state concern (28%).
Concerns about telehealth visits
Older adults expressed the subsequent concerns about telehealth visits: that health care providers wouldn’t be ready to do a physical exam (71%), that quality of care wouldn’t be nearly as good as a face-to-face visit (68%), privacy (49%), not feeling personally connected to the health care professional (49%), difficulty using the technology (47%), and difficulty seeing or hearing the health care professional (39%).
Growing numbers of health care providers have the aptitude to conduct telehealth visits. Because telehealth makes it possible to own a health care visit without being within the same location because the health care provider, this technology has the potential to extend health care access and convenience for several older adults. Telehealth visits may be particularly helpful for people who need frequent health care services, have mobility challenges, or board rural areas.
While most older adults are uncertain whether their health care providers currently offer telehealth visits, and extremely few have actually experienced such a visit, many older adults expressed interest in an exceeding telehealth visit within the future. for instance, roughly 1/2 older adults would have an interest in an exceeding telehealth visit with their medical care provider. Many older adults would have an interest in telehealth visits in specific situations, like an unexpected illness while traveling or for a one-time follow-up visit after a procedure or surgery.
Despite this interest, the poll results also highlight concerns about telehealth visits. for instance, most older adults are concerned about providers being unable to try and do a physical exam and also the overall quality of care of telehealth visits. Nearly half have concerns about privacy and not feeling connected to the provider during telehealth visits, and plenty of were also concerned about using the technology. Unless these concerns are addressed, they might limit the spread of telehealth visits among older adults.
Historically, relationships between older adults and their providers are established and maintained through face-to-face office visits. Yet, advances in telehealth technology and older adults’ greater comfort and skill with technology in existence are changing this paradigm. As more providers offer telehealth visits, these poll results point to promising opportunities for telehealth to enhance access and convenience for older adults. However, older adults’ concerns about telehealth must be addressed for its full impact to be realized.
Data Source and Methods
This National Poll on Healthy Aging report presents findings from a nationally representative household survey conducted exclusively by Ipsos Public Affairs, LLC (“Ipsos”), for the University of Michigan’s Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation. National Poll on Healthy Aging surveys are conducted using the Ipsos KnowledgePanel®, the largest national, probability-based panel in the U.S. Surveys are fielded two to three times a year with a sample of approximately 2,000 KnowledgePanel® members age 50–80.
This survey was administered online in May 2019 to a randomly selected, stratified group of older adults age 50–80 (n=2,256). Respondents were selected from the Ipsos web-enabled KnowledgePanel®, which closely resembles the U.S. population. The sample was subsequently weighted to reflect population figures from the U.S. Census Bureau.
The completion rate was 76% among panel members contacted to participate. The margin of error is ±1 to 2 percentage points for questions asked of the full sample and higher among subgroups.
Findings from the National Poll on Healthy Aging do not represent the opinions of the University of Michigan. The University of Michigan reserves all rights over this material.
Kurlander J, Kullgren J, Singer D, Solway E, Malani P, Kirch M, Saini S. Virtual visits: Telehealth and older adults. University of Michigan National Poll on Healthy Aging. October 2019. Available at: http://hdl.handle.net/2027.42/151376