As the technology evolves, the methods of medication and healthcare keep transforming into better and more enhanced alternatives. Telemedicine is one such transformation that the healthcare industry has witnessed in the last few years. Earlier, it was a norm for the patient to consult a doctor and admit themselves into a hospital if their condition worsens. However, with the advent of telemedicine, essentially, the entire healthcare system can be brought to one’s home. This development has been especially beneficial to elderly people since it is more challenging for them to visit a hospital now and then.
In this article, we will see how telemedicine has helped doctors, particularly Gerontologists, in addressing elderly issues. Firstly, let’s understand what telemedicine is and how it can replace the hospital system.
What is Telemedicine
Coined by Kenneth Bird in 1975, telemedicine is the process of using telecommunication to support healthcare. We are living in an information era where most of what we learn and understands comes from a screen. The internet, since its inception, has evolved to contain a whole world of information, waiting to be accessed at a click. Most of the way we communicate, interact, and make changes to our lives has already been shifted to online platforms, so it only makes sense to bring our healthcare online as well.
Imagine a scenario where you find yourself sick. You are running a high fever and have not been feeling yourself lately. Naturally, you would want to have yourself checked-up by a professional doctor. So, you go to a clinic to look for the doctor only to be confronted with a long queue of patients and the knowledge that the doctor has not even arrived yet. Meanwhile, your situation is only getting worse, and you are afraid that you might catch a new infection while waiting with hundreds of other patients with different conditions.
Now, replace the whole scenario with telemedicine. You feel sick and contact your doctor through a video conference. The doctor determines your situation, asks you a few questions and writes down a prescription for you to follow. Granted, this was only an example of how telemedicine can be a more convenient mode of healthcare; it can still be very serviceable for a variety of patients as well as the doctors.
Telemedicine often consists of monitoring devices, movement detectors, and alert systems to help doctors keep an eye on their patients and be readily available in case of an emergency.
The Elderly Issues
Elderly people are often the discarded members of our society with little to no healthcare and safety policy under their names. They also face many age-related and health-related issues during the final years of their lives. According to a study conducted by the National Council of Ageing, 92% of the elderly people suffer from at least one chronic disease, while 77% of them suffer from at least two. There is a very little chance for these individuals to get rid of such terminal conditions; most of them learn to live with it.
There is also a sociological angle to consider. Due to declining birth rates, the elderly may have one or no children. Thus the number of relatives around them to take care of their needs are limited. Even if they happen to have a lot of relatives, there is no guarantee that they would be interested in taking care of their elderly family members.
Then there is Dementia, which affects more than 50 million elderly people all over the world.
Lastly, If an elderly manages to escape the finality of chronic illness, they often fall victim to non-communicable diseases such as heart attack, stroke, and hypertension.
In the meantime, the current healthcare system is not efficient enough to handle such challenges faced by the elderly all over the world. There are not many gerontologists to watch over such a large number of patients, and the last twenty years have seen no increase in physician outputs.
How Telemedicine Aids Gerontologists in Addressing Elderly Issues
In this day and age where everything is either based on or stems from technology, telemedicine plays an essential role in the healthcare of the elderly. The elderly members who are suffering from chronic illness need to have regular doctor consultations, and due to their age, they are not able to visit a hospital regularly. Having access to telemedicine, the elderly people don’t have to worry about booking appointments every other week and visiting a doctor. They can simply turn on their medical devices and communicate with their doctors on the go.
According to extensive research by Bashshur et al., telemedicine came out as a superior option to emergency visits, hospitalizations, and many other healthcare issues.
For the elderly who are suffering from Alzheimer’s or Dementia, living on their own can be dangerous. In that scenario, doctors often extend their services to the patient’s home in the form of telemedicine. The service could include monitoring systems, alert systems, and smart movement detectors to help the elderly live a safe and healthy life.
Monitoring devices also help doctors determine the pace and gait of the patients to assess their wellness. The sensors on the monitoring system can figure out blood pressure, pulse, and weight and can send the same data over to healthcare professionals wirelessly.
With telemedicine monitoring system, elderly people can get the intervention 24*7 and are not dependent on hourly timings.
Telemedicine also aids caregivers in doing their job correctly while alleviating some of their burdens.
Similarly, the elderly people who are living on their own or suffering from Dementia or Alzheimers can also take advantage of telemedicine without having to rely on anyone for their care.
Telemedicine paired with the proper monitoring system can essentially replace the traditional healthcare system and provide a more enhanced and more secure way of elderly care. The applications are endless as long as the system is appropriately integrated into the workflow of physicians and staff. The goal is not to make it a burden for the doctors while providing proper healthcare to the needy through a more developed medium.