The population throughout the world is aging rapidly. In 2050, the population aged 65 and over in the US is projected to be 83.7 million, almost double its estimated population of 43.1 million in 2012. The number of people aged over 80 years is growing particularly rapidly, and it is anticipated that this number will quadruple in the 2000–2050 period. In 2030, older adults will comprise about 20% of the US population. Demographic projections assume that every other person born since the beginning of the 21st century in the US and other countries such as Germany, Italy, France, the UK, Canada, and Japan will live to 100 years.
The change in age distribution will have profound and complex health, social and economic implications. Along with a rapidly aging population comes an increase in the prevalence of chronic diseases and their effects. Elderly people often have multiple health conditions, take several medications and require more frequent interactions with health care providers. In fact, the current proportion of those over 65 with at least two concurrent chronic diseases may be as high as 98%. This population shift will exert more and more pressure on our already stressed healthcare system.
Telemedicine Technology is Part of the Solution
Providing adequate care efficiently and cost effectively will be essential in the next several decades. One part of the solution will be telemedicine software that allows providers and patients to connect remotely for follow up visits, medication supervision and chronic disease management.
The use of telemedicine software has many advantages for seniors. For those who don’t drive, it increases their sense of independence and reduces the need to rely on caregivers for transportation. Telemedicine makes it easier to attend all recommended visits, improving the chances that the patient will comply with the provider’s recommendations.
Of course there are some challenges related to adoption of telehealth technology by the elderly. Older adults tend to be less comfortable with new technologies and more concerned about privacy and security than younger people. Telehealth software providers need to be aware of these realities and provide solutions that are easy to use and highly secure.
The good news is that patient satisfaction with remote healthcare is very high. In a study of home health services for elderly patients, telehealth technology was effective in terms of reducing the number of clinic visits and achieving patient satisfaction. Here are a few findings:
- 72% of patients were satisfied with telemedicine care
- At 100%, remote medical consultation was the most highly satisfactory service, followed by physical therapy (83.3%)
- 93% were willing to receive home telecare services in the future
- 100% would recommend telemedicine to friends or family members
Telehealth software isn’t the only innovation that will be useful in ensuring quality care for our aging population, of course. However, it is an important piece of the puzzle. When used along with electronic health records and remote monitoring, it can extend the healthcare delivery network right into the home, improving both health and quality of life for our nation’s seniors.