Seniors with complex healthcare needs want to live as independently as possible for as long as they can. They also would like to limit the strain placed on family caregivers. Telemedicine has the potential to improve access to quality care for older adults and other individuals with chronic disease or significant disabilities who spend much of their time confined to their homes. Through telemedicine, medical providers can deliver a broad range of diagnostic, therapeutic, and care management services. Busy family caregivers can communicate with clinicians without spending time traveling to healthcare facilities. Below are seven examples of home telehealth strategies:
1. Home-Based Primary Care
Telehealth can help meet the increasingly complex needs of older adults living at home and reduce the need for home visits by healthcare providers. Patients can be visited virtually in their home by a telemedicine nurse, who can then connect them to a specialist and their primary care provider through a video conference.
2. Behavioral Health
Virtual visits by clinicians enhance patient and caregiver convenience and improve outcomes. This is especially helpful for geriatric patients who have mobility challenges. The ability to engage in a session via video conference can provide healthcare professionals with a better window into actual behavior in the home.
3. Remote Monitoring
Passive devices embedded in a home (cameras and sensors) enable activity monitoring without human operation. Sensors can monitor home-leaving, bedtime, smoke, water leaks, lights, and more. If anything unusual occurs, an alert is sent to the caregiver. These technologies can substitute for some caregiving time, helping to reduce caregiver stress.
4. Chronic Disease Management
An example of Chronic Disease Management can be seen from the Mississippi Diabetes Telehealth Network. Participants use digital tablets to upload health data (e.g., blood pressure, glucose levels, and weight) to clinicians daily. Medical practitioners are given a complete view of a patient’s health status, enabling earlier, proactive care.
5. Heart Failure Transitional Care
Several clinical trials have considered the effectiveness of remote patient monitoring after hospitalization for heart failure. Individuals with heart failure must follow a regimen that includes medication adherence, symptom recognition and reporting, daily weigh-ins, improved diet and physical activity, and stress management. An interactive voice-response system collects daily information about the patient that is then reviewed by a clinician.
Another strategy tested was the use of wireless electronic devices that transmit daily patient data (e.g., heart rate, blood pressure, and weight) to a nurse triage center.
6. Palliative Care
Telemedicine can provide services to individuals receiving palliative care at home, including:
- Virtual conferences between the patient, the caregiver, palliative care providers, and a primary care physician.
- Self-assessment and reporting tools that expand the information available to clinicians. This helps to identify real-time symptom acceleration and functional decline, leading to proactive and timely management.
7. Support for Family Caregivers
Example: The Telehealth Education Program from the Veterans Health Administration aims to enhance the knowledge, skills, and perceptions of support for spouse caregivers of veterans with moderate to severe dementia. Hour-long teleconference sessions are held every week for ten weeks. Caregivers are provided with high-quality care skills aimed at preventing unnecessary healthcare utilization and premature institutionalization.
The Future of Telemedicine
The use of telemedicine has received a boost from the COVID-19 pandemic and will continue to be implemented more widely. If you are a caregiver, telehealth services may be on the horizon to assist you. Another way to make your life easier is to engage the services of an in-home healthcare provider. If you live in our neighborhood (Columbia, SC), talk to us to see how we can help you.