The COVID-19 pandemic has changed many things, including how you visit the doctor. It’s more likely now that you might be asked to use telehealth technology—like a video or telephone conference call—so you have timely and safe access to care from your health care provider.
This is also particularly helpful if you find it challenging to reach a doctor’s office or another medical facility, or if you live in a rural community where access to specialty care may be limited.
In response to these pandemic challenges, the federal government has made it easier for doctors and hospitals to get paid by Medicare for telehealth visits. This is great news for all of us since early feedback suggests that patients are finding them to be a good alternative to an in-person visit.
A recent survey conducted by The John A. Hartford Foundation shows that more than half of adults in the United States age 70 and older (55%) experienced a disruption in their medical care during the first month of social distancing due to COVID-19. These older adults were most likely to delay primary or preventive care, and 15 percent of older adults put off essential medical treatment because of the pandemic.
The same survey found that nearly 60 percent of older adults who had a telehealth visit in lieu of an in-person appointment said that the experience was the same as, or better than, seeing their provider in-person.
Telehealth visits are as simple as logging into an internet-connected device and meeting with your physician at a set time. Your provider will teach you how to get on the site and help you until you are comfortable. The visits are hosted on a secure platform and allow for protected discussion about your health. Many insurance carriers have expanded coverage of telehealth during the pandemic, but you’ll want to verify with your insurer.
AARP has developed a handy guide for preparing for your first telehealth visit that takes you through a step-by-step process and is provided in both English and Spanish.
Many consumers hope the trend toward telehealth lasts, which could end your struggle to find a parking spot or drive through a snowstorm and the inconvenience of sitting around a waiting room for your visit to start.
Another perk of a telehealth visit is you can show your health care provider how you move around at home via camera and receive advice about how to stay active. This eliminates the challenge of describing your home during an in-office visit.
Telehealth is also a good way to conduct your mental wellness visits. The pandemic can lead to feelings of isolation and loneliness, especially if you are at home alone. Telehealth uses flexible technology that allows your provider to check on your well-being and it allows for more privacy in the visit.
Remember, doctors, hospitals and you, the patient, are all in this together. Telehealth is one way for you to stay connected and healthy.
For more resources on age-friendly care, visit johnahartford.org/agefriendly.