By Colleen Sparks
Participating in telehealth visits is an effective, convenient way to resolve medical issues that is especially beneficial to senior citizens and others at higher risk of contracting COVID-19.
A recent poll from Kaiser Family Foundation found that only 11 percent of people ages 65 and older in the country surveyed said they had used a device to talk to a doctor or other healthcare provider over the last two weeks. That is despite the fact that 68-percent of them said they had a computer, smart phone or tablet with internet access at home.
Doctors’ offices and health facilities around the Valley offer patients access to telehealth visits, including OptumCare Network of Arizona and Banner Health Hospitals. OptumCare Primary Care, which offers primary care treatment with a focus on helping senior citizens, provides video visits with patients, which can be important now as many seniors are not comfortable going to medical offices for in-person appointments due to the COVID-19 crisis. Banner Health Hospitals are able to conduct virtual visits so hospitalists and specialists can see and examine patients in the COVID-19 units of those facilities.
“A lot of senior citizens have not always been the first to embrace new advances in technology as younger generations,” Dr. Tara Ostrom, associate medical director at OptumCare Primary Care, said. “Convincing them that this new technology may be even better than how they received care in the past takes some conversation.”
Telehealth visits allow people to avoid visiting clinics in person, where they might increase their risk of contracting Coronavirus. They also are good for seniors and other patients who might not have their own method of transportation to doctors’ offices, Ostrom said. Another perk of talking to a doctor via video is other family members may watch and listen to the conversation and ask questions.
Banner Health officials say using technology to conduct virtual visits significantly preserves personal protective equipment (PPE) and allows for more efficiency, as well as offers enhanced patient and staff safety in these busy hospital units. Physicians can effectively assess patients through the two-way, audiovisual technology from safe, private locations in the hospitals. The technology means physicians will not always have to physically enter each patient room, which requires putting on and removing personal protective equipment for every visit.