How Technology Is Improving Access And Empowering Older Adults To Embrace Telehealth

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COVID-19 has greatly changed how we care for ourselves and has resulted in a massive change to how we connect with our doctors. Providers are seeing 50-175 times the number of patients via telehealth visits than they did before the pandemic, and Forrester predicts that virtual care visits will soar to more than 1 billion by the end of 2020, including 900 million visits related to the coronavirus.

Telehealth has great potential to increase healthcare access for everyone during the pandemic, and this is especially important for older adults and other populations at higher risk of contracting COVID-19. But, virtual visits can also be stressful for those with an aversion to using technology to speak with their doctor.

As patients who might’ve shied away from technology in the past now need to use it to connect with their doctors, it’s important for healthcare providers to ensure their telemedicine platforms are inclusive for users of all ages and levels of digital literacy.

Fortunately, there are a number of things healthcare providers can do to improve the telehealth experience for all users.

Be supportive

Providers need to do everything they can to make telehealth comfortable for users who aren’t confident using smartphones and computers, and this starts by developing FAQs, video tutorials and other resources to help patients understand the telehealth process, schedule an appointment, download the app and access the platform. Support can’t stop with onboarding — it’s also important to help patients troubleshoot and to offer technical support within the platform by providing a phone number and/or button patients can use to connect directly with someone who can help.

Make access as easy as possible

Omnichannel support is the best solution for making telehealth accessible to the broadest user base. Even though older Americans are increasingly drawn to new

Move Over, Teladoc: Are Google and Apple the Future of Telehealth?

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In international relations, a proxy war is an armed conflict between two smaller groups each representing the interests of larger nations. Two recent examples saw the U.S. and Iran supporting opposing factions in Iraq in the mid-2010s and the U.S and Russia doing the same in Afghanistan during the early 1990s.

Although the stakes are not comparable, there may be similarities in how the telehealth industry takes shape over the next decade. Fast-growers Teladoc (NYSE:TDOC) and American Well (NYSE:AMWL) (recently rebranded as Amwell) are getting a lot of attention due to their recent transactions: an acquisition and an IPO, respectively. But technology giants Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) and Google parent Alphabet (NASDAQ:GOOG) (NASDAQ:GOOGL) are taking up positions that may make telehealth players pawns in a larger battle.

an electronic medical record on a tablet held by two hands

Image source: Getty Images.

The right place at the right time 

The telehealth market is estimated to grow to $23 billion in 2025 from only $8.3 billion in 2019. Office closures and social distancing guidelines have only accelerated this trend, as patients are unable (or unwilling) to sit in a waiting room until the doctor can see them. Consulting firm Frost & Sullivan estimates the demand for telehealth will grow more than 60% in 2020.

As insurance companies and Medicare further establish the relationship between care outside the hospital and health outcomes, financial incentives will force clinicians to engage easily and often with patients beyond traditional visits. Periodic check-ins, health monitoring, and regular digital communication are likely to become the norm. 

Follow the money

Connecting patients and doctors is an important part of the healthcare system, but it is not the most profitable. Telehealth companies charge $49, $79, or $99 per visit for a few million patients per year, but electronic health records (EHR) systems are massive software platforms that sometimes cost billions of dollars