As the world of technology continues to explode around us the opportunity to enhance quality of life, minimize trips to the doctor’s office, manage chronic health problems and communicate more easily is coming to baby boomers and older adults with health needs.
Telehealth is a term currently being defined in a number of ways including: the use of telecommunication technologies to provide health care services; electronic access to medical and surgical information; delivery of health care via remote means or utilization of technologies to offer education, information and services via technological communication devices. In essence it is a means for gathering and transmitting data between health care users and health care providers to enhance the quality of life of older adults.
Telehealth brings the opportunity to:
• minimize trips to the doctor or hospital
• complete in-home monitoring of blood pressures, weights, oxygen levels, heart rhythms…
• provide health personnel and family members pertinent information
• optimize health care by using data to make treatment plan adjustments in the home
• mechanize home functions to enhance safety including lighting, door security, monitors and alarms and more
• connect otherwise isolated older adults to those who care for them
• provide a means for safety management, enhanced independence, reduced cost for medical care management and so much more
Telehealth is a growing field with a multitude of benefits available to the adult with chronic health issues or disabilities and the older adult to more fully manage health care needs from their home, wherever that may be. Telehealth is currently being used by in-home health care professionals to maximize efficiency without jeopardizing the patient’s care needs. Having the ability to monitor vital signs and other essential information allows doctors and nurses to make adjustments to medications and other patient needs without the patient having to make frequent clinic visits. Telehealth provides round the clock opportunity to check on client’s vital signs, oxygen levels, blood sugars and so forth which might otherwise be challenging to attain without having the person in a hospital or other 24-hour care setting.
In-home quality of life, safety and communication can all benefit from telehealth options and systems that are multi-functional to meet all of an individual’s needs. From opening the front door to turning on hallway and bathroom lights when a person steps out of bed at night to sending vocal reminders to take their pills and a text message to a concerned daughter indicating the pills were taken, telehealth opens the door to improving quality of life, enhancing dignity and minimizing isolation. Telehealth systems vary significantly in function, cost, access and ease of use and their implementation should be evaluated by and coordinated with the older adult’s health care team members to gain the most benefit.