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Removing Barriers to Virtual Healthcare for Seniors

Epiphany Team

As virtual healthcare becomes the norm, seniors across the country need access to critical resources like tablets and digital training.

Although they may be slower to adopt technology than younger generations are, many seniors are still eager to embrace new tools and platforms. When asked in 2019 why he and others in his age group would want to learn how to use the internet, one senior told TechCrunch, “We feel like we’re standing outside a building that we have no access to.”

While the COVID-19 pandemic has certainly served as a springboard for technology adoption among many seniors, hundreds of thousands remain unable to reap the benefits of the digital era — including benefits that relate to healthcare. According to research from GoHealth, 31% of Medicare beneficiaries aren’t interested in virtual healthcare visits. Of this group, 74% say their doctor has never mentioned virtual visits, 32% say they don’t have access to a laptop or mobile phone, and 65% say they don’t know how to use video conferencing platforms.

With telehealth and other virtual services expected to remain an integral part of our healthcare system beyond the pandemic, equipping seniors with the skills and devices they need to access remote care has become more important than ever.

Providing Seniors With the Right Digital Tools

Without access to a mobile phone, tablet, or laptop, virtual visits with physicians become virtually impossible. But even seniors with a digital device face challenges accessing telehealth appointments if they don’t have a strong internet connection. According to one recent report, an estimated 22 million seniors in the United States lack broadband access at home.

To help close this digital divide, many city officials and nonprofit organizations are stepping up to the plate. When Beverly Black, a senior living in New York City, found herself without a computer during the pandemic, the AARP-affiliated charity Older Adults Technology Service (OATS) intervened.

According to AARP, “Within weeks, Black had a new LG Android tablet, among 10,000 devices provided to those age 60 and older in the city, along with T-Mobile connectivity for two years…all free.”

But mobile devices and computers aren’t the only tools seniors need to maintain their health in remote care settings. Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM) solutions like heart monitors and Bluetooth-enabled scales provide physicians with critical patient data that can improve health outcomes and lead to significant cost savings for healthcare organizations.

Fortunately, RPM devices deemed “reasonable and necessary for the diagnosis or treatment of [a] patient’s illness or injury or to improve the functioning of a malformed body member” are now covered by Medicare, improving access to these potentially life-saving devices for patients across the country.

Improving Digital Literacy Among Seniors

As organizations ramp up the distribution of devices and seek to get seniors online, digital literacy programs like those launching in San José have become essential. While these programs take many forms, they all share the same goal: to help seniors feel connected to an increasingly technology-driven world.

As part of these programs, digital literacy teachers — often students or volunteers — show seniors how to launch a virtual appointment, open a health app, access medical records online, use a wearable device, and more. To succeed, these teachers must focus on breaking tasks down into small, explicit steps. When the pandemic forced many digital literacy programs to shift from providing in-person classes in seniors’ homes and local libraries to one-on-one phone conversations, teachers had to make their instructions even more specific.

“We had to make the trainings really visual — ‘press the green button’ or ‘tap on the app with the blue square.’ While it can initially be frustrating for the patient, in the end we’re empowering them by taking them through each step,” said Amanda Guth, a Master of Public Health student at Jefferson College of Population Health.

Helping Seniors Adopt Technology With Confidence

Access to digital devices, stable internet connections, and technology training all play an integral part in the successful adoption of technology among seniors, but there’s one key ingredient missing: 24/7 support.

Learning how to use new devices can be challenging for even the most tech-savvy individual, leading to frustration and slow adoption rates. At Epiphany, we provide users of all ages with real-time support, helping them retrieve forgotten passwords, access online portals, deploy at-home monitoring solutions, and more.

As part of our comprehensive support solutions, we also handle all device logistics and training. From device procurement and provisioning to robust on-site and remote training sessions, we’re here to ensure your users are empowered with the tools and skills they need to take control of their health — 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Contact us today to learn more.

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