There are several physiological and
psychological changes associated with aging but the most common ones are memory
disorders and mobility problems. Many old people prefer to skip going to the
doctor because traveling would put too much of a strain on their joints.
Procrastination often leads to escalation of
the health problem as the organs and body systems of seniors are already in
decline. Furthermore, an elderly person is more susceptible to heatstroke
and dehydration and so visiting
health care providers can in itself pose a health risk. To circumvent these
health issues, doctors have turned to telehealth
as a viable alternative to in-person consultations.
Unfortunately, telehealth remains more common in the western world as compared
to developing nations.
consultations are most commonly used for senior bedridden patients who have
stable chronic conditions such as diabetes or heart disease. These
consultations allow a doctor to communicate with a patient via video
conference. Patients who do not have video conferencing facilities can request
a clinician to come to the house with a tablet or similar videoconferencing
Use of Telegeriatric Consultations for Older Adults
with Memory Disorders
A recent scientific study conducted by a group of
reputed Australian doctors investigated the feasibility and reliability of
diagnosing dementia via a telegeriatric consultation. The study showed that the
doctors were able to accurately diagnose Alzheimer's
and lower levels of cognitive impairment.
Furthermore, doctors found that the stress of traveling a long distance for a
doctor's appointment could have a negative impact on the patient's memory and
cognitive assessment tests. The patient's poor performance would in turn,
affect the doctor's diagnosis and treatment plan. A telegeriatric consultation
eliminates the unnecessary stress and therefore the test results are more
accurate. In the follow-up satisfaction survey, the patients and their
caregivers were satisfied with the telegeriatric memory disorder consultation.
They stated that the clarity of the sound and video helped them to communicate
effortlessly with the doctor and felt that they received the same level of
privacy as compared to a regular consultation. Every patient who participated
in this trial indicated that they preferred a telegeriatric consultation to
traveling to the doctor's office. The patients' caregivers also echoed this
sentiment and said that they would request a telegeriatric consultation if a
follow-up session was required.
While the medical community has accepted the
practicality of telegeriatric consultations for follow-up sessions with
patients, most doctors shy away from using video conferencing to make a
diagnosis. While physical ailments would require an in-person consultation in
order to obtain a definite diagnosis, mental disorders such as dementia do not
have physical symptoms and so it is possible to make a diagnosis via a video
conference. The doctors who conducted this trial found that it would be
feasible to set up a clinic that provided telegeriatric consultations for
memory disorders and local GPs (General Practitioners) could then refer
patients to this clinic based on the requirements of the individual.
Diagnosing memory problems via a teleconference
is the first step in promoting tele-diagnosis for mental disorders. Currently,
there are several telehealth service providers that offer services for the treatment of
, obsessive-compulsive disorder
, bipolar disorder
and memory loss.
Patients need to hand over their complete medical records and might require
more than one consultation before the doctor can make a memory loss diagnosis.
This is because the treatment for short-term memory loss is quite different
from long term memory loss treatment and age related memory loss and so a
definite diagnosis is imperative for successful treatment. The doctor will
thoroughly examine a patient's history as well as his symptoms before making a
Role of Telegeriatrics in Senior Care
Less Physical and Emotional Stress:
Going to the doctor can be stressful for
children and grown-ups alike but it can be particularly demanding for older
people. The sheer physical exertion, discomfort and pain do not always end with
the commute as patients are often forced to wait for over an hour for the
doctor even though they have an appointment. A one hour wait would simply mean
frustration and annoyance for a younger person but to a senior, it can be
downright painful as their joints cannot take the pressure of sitting in one
position for that long. Older people also have weaker immune responses and so
they are at a higher risk of contracting an infection from other patients in the
doctor's waiting room.
Improved Access and Convenience:
might be the only option for people in
remote areas as these patients may not be able to make the long trip to the
doctor's clinic. The doctor can follow-up on treatment plans or prescriptions
in a manner similar to a regular follow-up visit. It is not only rural areas
that can benefit from telegeriatric care. The cost of living is very high in
cities and as a result two-parent working families have become the norm even in
the more traditional homes. Working parents might not be granted leave from
their employers to take their elderly parent for a doctor's appointment. In
such cases, a telegeriatric consultation would be a viable option.
Lower Health Costs:
Telegeriatric consultations can reduce costs
by up to 50 percent as it completely eliminates traveling costs. Health care
for older adults has become a lot more expensive and traveling to and from the
doctor's clinic adds to these costs. In cases where the patient is unable to go
to the doctor's office and the doctor makes a home visit, the charges for the
visit can be several times the fees for a regular consultation.
In India, the Telemedicine Networking
Foundation is one of the few organizations that provides telemedicine
. It is a non-profit organization that
has been established by the Apollo Hospitals Group and it provides online
interactive healthcare in real-time for remote medical assistance.
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Salih, S., Rowland, J., Wootton, R. and Gray, L. (2015) General Practitioners,
Patients, and Care Givers Support the Use of a Telegeriatric Memory Disorder
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P., & Demiris, G. (2015). The Use of Health Information Technology to
Improve Care and Outcomes for Older Adults. Research in Gerontological Nursing,
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