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Aging Population Welcomes Telemedicine for Seniors

Last winter, Medicare expanded its telemedicine coverage to make telestroke, dialysis, and home healthcare more accessible for seniors starting in 2020. Now, a recent poll shows that almost 9 out of 10 adults age 40 and over feel they would be comfortable using telemedicine for seniors in their families or for themselves—as long as the quality of care and health information privacy are as good as what they would get from an in-person visit.

The poll, conducted by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, reveals widespread interest in telemedicine among the older generations. The questions explored such technologies as video visits; the only medium which garnered discomfort was text messages. However, roughly one-third of the survey participants reported concerns with the security of health information, and half worry that the quality of care may be lower than that of in-office visits.

Amidst apprehension about an upcoming shortage of providers to care for our aging population, this news is encouraging because it suggests that elderly patients and their caregivers will be amenable to supplementing or replacing certain aspects of care with telemedicine or in-home telemedicine.

Generally, telemedicine has been embraced by the younger generations, who often text or Skype their doctors with questions and concerns regarding chronic illness or an urgent situation despite their failure to meet HIPAA requirements for privacy. In addition, private insurers’ willingness to pay for video visits has promoted further acceptance of telemedicine technology. Seniors, though, have had a harder time breaking into the field simply because Medicare has enforced tight restrictions on what it will pay for. With the recent changes in law, this will soon be changing. Although the law “is really a huge step in the right direction,” said Johns Hopkins University telemedicine chief Dr. Ingrid Zimmer-Galler, “it certainly doesn’t cover everything.”

To learn more about the poll, visit the Chicago Tribune here.

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