Are Virtual Physician Visits an Option for Your Senior Family Member?

Sunrise Senior Living  |  January 14, 2019
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Telemedicine has become a $17.8 billion industry, and that growth is expected to continue. Experts say telehealth will grow by more than 18 percent each year through 2020. While some challenges remain, the convenience it offers to physicians and patients is driving the necessary innovation.

One area that has been steadily gaining ground in recent years is virtual physician visits. As technology has improved, the number of physician groups logging on has increased. Insurance companies are also seeing the value of these visits and including them in covered services.

For older adults, there are many advantages to not having to drive to a physician’s office. But there are disadvantages, too. To help you and your older loved one decide if virtual office visits are an option to pursue, let’s look at the pros and cons.

Five Advantages of Virtual Physician Visits

  1. Convenience: For older adults, especially those who don’t drive, being able to talk face-to-face with their physician from the comfort of their own living room is appealing. Technology has made virtual visits easy even for those who aren’t experienced computer users. Seniors who don’t drive will also appreciate not having to ask an adult child, who might be busy at work, for transportation.
  2. No waiting rooms: It’s no secret that physician waiting rooms are full of sick people. A senior with a weakened immune system can limit exposure to bugs and viruses by taking advantage of a virtual physician visit.
  3. Less time spent waiting: Physicians often run behind, which can be aggravating and stressful. When you are stuck in a waiting room, there’s not much you can do to fill the time. By contrast, when you are waiting at home, you can relax and watch television or work on your to-do list.
  4. More focused physicians: Patients who’ve taken advantage of these types of visits often say they feel their physician is more focused. When it is just the patient and the physician talking by video conference, there may be fewer distractions for the doctor. It allows them to focus on the patient and their concerns.
  5. Better access to specialists: A patient with a unique health condition or a disease that requires the intervention of a specialist might find they have better access via a virtual physician visit. An adult with an autoimmune condition in Michigan, for example, might be able to work with a specialist at the nationally recognized Johns Hopkins Consultative Rheumatology Clinic in Maryland without having to leave home.

While virtual physician visits offer seniors many advantages, there are still drawbacks to be aware of.

The Downside of Virtual Physician Visits

If you are considering making virtual physician visits part of your care plan, be sure to clarify a few things first.

  • What technology or software will be required? If you have technical issues, will assistance be available?
  • If you live in a rural area where internet service can be unreliable, ask how that will impact your visits.
  • How will the physician be reimbursed for the visit? Are you expected to pay privately or will your health insurance cover the expense? The good news is that Medicare will pay for some telehealth services. Visit “Telehealth” on the Medicare website to learn more.

Designated Care Managers at Sunrise

We know how important it is for residents to have continuity of care. That’s why we have designated care managers at every Sunrise Senior Living community. This allows caregivers and residents to get to know one another.

Caregivers will be able to spot small changes in residents and intervene before they become bigger problems. We invite you to visit the Sunrise community nearest you to learn more today!