Home Health care provider Home visit: technology can benefit elderly health care

Home visit: technology can benefit elderly health care

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Dr. Jeff Markin

For the spokesperson’s review

Spokane appears to be returning to more routine days and more routine health care as the COVID pandemic fades from front-page news. Many people have delayed care during the pandemic. Demand rebounded as people returned to their doctors’ offices to catch up on routine healthcare needs such as cancer screenings, minor surgeries, wellness checkups and vaccinations.

Today, getting treatment doesn’t just mean making an appointment and driving to the doctor. In fact, many of your health needs can be addressed at home with what’s known as “telehealth,” a convenient way to get care with just your mobile device or computer.

Discover telehealth

With an increased demand for care, it is important to understand your options. There are many different entry points to get the care you need outside of a direct, face-to-face appointment with your primary care provider.

One of the most important things you can do to improve ease of access and communication between you and your healthcare team is to take advantage of technology or develop some degree of computer literacy or access a smart phone if needed. These devices can allow you to access your medical records through a secure portal, reorder medications, review test results, and send messages to your healthcare team.

It’s important to understand that your primary care provider is not “going away”. You can have in-person appointments even if you also use technology and virtual health. It is always very important to schedule this annual wellness visit to connect and review your comprehensive health care needs.

Telehealth appointments help you avoid travel

More and more providers are offering telehealth, which includes online chats with healthcare teams and phone or video appointments with your providers. For seniors, telehealth can mean not having to drive or commute to every appointment and being able to stay home when mobility is limited. Most of these services can be accessed using any smart phone or tablet like an iPad in addition to a computer.

Suppose a patient suffered a minor fall at home and fortunately only injured the hip muscles. After an acute care visit to check and treat minor injuries in an emergency room, for example, follow-up may be an in-person visit with a primary provider, review of ER notes and x-ray reports in electronic records, then another recording by video or telephone with the supplier.

This could include a recommendation for physical therapy. After an initial assessment with a physiotherapist, she may be able to choose between in-person visits or access home physiotherapy with telehealth visits with the therapist. She can also have online access to her exercise program and links to videos that show how to do the exercises.

Video and phone appointments can include everything from asking questions about a minor illness like the flu, getting a regular check-up with a specialist like a pulmonologist, or asking your primary provider about medications. You can even have a dermatologist look at a mole or blemish via video or photo sent via secure message and recommend if you should come in for an in-person exam. It may be faster and more convenient to start with telehealth, especially for older people who may need to arrange transportation to come.

Many mental health services now also offer telehealth options. Some providers also offer online ordering, mail order or prescription delivery. Find out what your suppliers have available.

For those with more limited technology access or know-how, it’s often straightforward to use healthcare technology platforms once you’re set up, so it can be helpful to ask a son, daughter, or a friend to help you the first time and show you how. You can also ask your provider if they have support or assistance with using technologies such as self-checking tools available as part of the online scheduling process.

Electronic health records coordinate all your care

If you are part of a system that uses electronic health records, which most do, clinicians have access to your medical data at their fingertips, including lab results, vaccinations and screenings, and visits to specialist providers.

Your primary care nursing staff and physician assistants can ensure that your vaccinations are up to date, that the appropriate labs are ordered and screened in advance for an upcoming appointment, or that necessary cancer screenings are ordered, all without having to see your provider face-to-face. Records of services you get outside of your primary care office, including emergency rooms and services like a colonoscopy or bone density or breast cancer screening, should be included in your electronic record and your primary provider can access it in one place.

If you’re in a healthcare system, records from labs, pharmacy, and other providers can be automatically transferred and accessed by your healthcare team, and if not, you want follow up and ask the external vendor to make sure the files get shared. This gives health care providers the full range of information to make decisions and can improve both the safety and quality of your care.

Apps and online platforms facilitate care

Many healthcare systems have a secure web portal or smart phone app where you can get your own personal ID to access care. For example, on our system, you can view your health records and reminders, schedule appointments, and renew your medications. You can often send a secure, private message to your health care providers for non-urgent questions and expect a response in about a day.

You’ll need to set up with a login account and for people with less tech savvy it might be helpful to have someone show you the tools.

What we all ultimately want is success for patients achieving their health goals, whatever that looks like to you. Using technology can help you get the best care quickly and efficiently to ensure you stay happy and healthy as the years go by.