Home Clinicians COVID-19: Is the Key to Protecting the Elderly Population through Telehealth?

COVID-19: Is the Key to Protecting the Elderly Population through Telehealth?

by Heidi Bullman

The outbreak of COVID-19 has left U.S. residents, especially the elderly and those with underlying conditions vulnerable to contracting the virus. To reduce exposure, the CDC is urging older American communities to stock up on supplies, avoid crowds, and stay inside their homes.

“This ought to be top of mind for people over 60, and those with underlying health problems, such as heart or lung disease, diabetes, or compromised immune systems. The single most important thing you can do to avoid the virus is reduce your face to face contact with people,” explained Dr. William Schaffner, a Vanderbilt University professor and longtime adviser to the CDC, for CNN. And because those in the elderly population receive more medical attention than any other U.S. demographic, many present a use case for telehealth and telemedicine to accommodate patients of all kinds, including senior citizens, as COVID-19 wreaks havoc across the nation.

But is this a viable option?

According to Dr. Robert Wachter, chair of the Department of Medicine at the University of  California, San Francisco, telehealth solutions create a way for patients who feel like they have symptoms to get the information they need and be guided on how and where to get testing done in a way that eliminates  the traditional healthcare triage approach. However, when asked about the importance of telehealth in preventing and containing COVID-19, Wachter explained the criticality of in-person visits.

On identifying patients with symptoms Watcher noted that, “[the response will be to] test [patients] rapidly. Of course, that creates a challenge for telemedicine, if, at the end of our telemedicine encounter, you’ve got to go get tested. You can’t do that through telemedicine. You have to go somewhere to get a test.”

With officials urging senior citizens to stay inside while current diagnostic testing for COVID-19 can only be administered via a traditional lab setting, this poses a problem for the population. The only way for this to be overcome is through advancements in telehealth. Based on  the evolution of telemedicine and past advancements within the last few years alone, this might be coming sooner than we think.

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