Telehealth and the amazing role it provides in Senior Living

Each morning before starting work most of us read the paper or get the news off our cell phones while grabbing Starbucks and heading off to start our day, perhaps we listen to the news on the commute to and from the office.  As with all things that are human nature, we key in on the topics that matter to us individually.  Some items may be of importance to us financially, socially, politically or fill our competitive fix with how well our favorite sports teams are doing.

Being lucky enough to have a career working in a field I love; telehealth, while advocating for people that matter to me for so many reasons, makes it easy for me to see how bringing telehealth to seniors makes so much sense. The senior living and home health arenas are beginning to see the connection as well and based on Accenture’s 2018 Consumer survey on Digital Health, which indicates we may be at a tipping point, in the right direction.  Allowing us to make the aging process something to be revered, not feared.  These amazing individuals are the generation of people who came before my generation, had a work ethic that created the nation and world we all live in.  These people paved the way for future generations to reach higher education, higher career goals. If not for those who came before us and firmly established what are now societal norms, it is highly unlikely that I would be a female CEO and entrepreneur.  There isn’t a day when I don’t reflect on a piece of wisdom I garnered while in the company of someone older than me, or things learned as a child sitting at the feet of my Grandparents and parents listening to stories of their lives and their dreams.  So here is the news I hear, read or speak about every day: 

  •           In November 2016 the US had reached a new milestone – a population of over 50 million seniors for the first time in the history of the USA. (source- Census.gov)
  •           The Senior Population is expected to climb to 83,000,000 by 2050. (source-Census.gov)
  •           The average life expectancy in 2010 was 10.5 years longer than it was in 1050 (source: Census.gov)
  •           Healthcare spending is on the rise. Healthcare spending is nearly 5 times higher for those aged 85+ than the National average of $7097 per year (source: CMS.gov)
  •           With the current steep rise of in the number of Americans living with Alzheimer’s disease, which could triple from 5 million in 2013 to about 14 million by 2050. The demand for eldercare can be expected to increase proportionally. 
  •           According to an NHI Study in 2015, the median cost of an ER Visit, was 40% more than the Median cost of one month’s rent in the Nation.        

Now that we have all seen some of the data, numbers, expected growth as the Baby Boomer Generation ages, and the “subjects” in chronic illness studies what is not being said in those statistics and numbers is that these are people we are talking about, a “subject” is part of sentence structure, grammar if you will.  The reality is that these wise and amazing people are not grammar or numbers -- they are Grandma’s and Mom’s and Grandpa’s and Dads.  When we focus on a few topics heard daily, notice who wanted to raise their hand and say “Wow, I’m excited to age?” For the sake of time, I will go out on a limb here and say “Nobody!”

 

What if instead, we looked forward to aging, be it at home, or in a community setting? Bringing telehealth to the senior living arena offers advantages to so many people, not only the person who is gifted with longevity in their life:

  •           It helps the care giver, who may be needed at home, or in a Senior Community.
  •           It gives peace of mind to family members that their loved one has access to a board certified, state licensed physician 24/7/365.
  •           It allows the Senior themselves to feel like they are less of a burden on family members, friends to drive them to a physician appointment
  •           It keeps everyone from sitting in the waiting room sharing new germs with the other patients who are waiting to see the Dr. and are sick.
  •           Virtual Care seems to be leading the way over wearables and remote patient monitoring-and after-hours care, patient follow up, and patient education are leading virtual care. (Accenture 3/18)
  •           47 percent of those surveyed state that given a choice, they would prefer a more immediate virtual medical appointment over a delayed in person appointment. (Accenture 3/18)
  •           For after-hours care, 73% said they would use virtual care for after-hours, (night and weekend) appointment
  •           Telehealth removes the potential for further medical conditions and admission, created by being transferred to the ER for non-urgent issues. Blood Pressure elevates, as does heartrate from the excitement and anxiety created from a paramedic and ambulance assist to the ER.
  •           The cost of telehealth is nominal, truly in some cases less than 3 cups of Starbucks coffee each month per individual.   Medicare Spending is expected to rise 3.8% of Gross Domestic Product by 2026

For those who own and operate Senior living communities or home health care agencies, Telehealth has shown these returns on investment:

  •          Increased retention of existing staff. Proud to work for an innovative company
  •          Recruitment and filling vital vacancies faster. Again, the organization is seen as innovative and a front runner
  •          Decreased Nurse and Wellness team turnover. The long shifts and then being on call at night show a much higher turnover rate in Senior Living Nurses than other healthcare environments.
  •          Market Differentiator, the target market looking for a place for their loved one to live when they are no longer safe at home, is tech savvy, It’s typically the eldest daughter between 45-55 years old. First thing used to research appropriate environment is the Internet. If your website indicates your community, or agency utilizes telehealth, that’s a strong reason for them to choose your community.
  •          Increased Census and new customers for the above reasons
  •          Healthier, Happier residents and their families
  •          Very low cost of investment to the organization
  •         Helps grow and solidify relationships with referring hospitals and partner organizations, by decreasing the number of non-urgent Emergency Room Visits, which could potentially lead to re-admits and penalties they incur based on CMS regulations.

It's evident that telehealth has the power to transform the way seniors are able to live and receive care. Now is the time to start implementing measures to ensure that our aging loved ones can maximize the phenomenal benefits of telemedicine.

Post Written by ATA18 Connector Lorri Thanos