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The Arizona Telemedicine Program Blog

While the computer revolution of decades past seemed to favor only younger generations, the technology advances of this decade have developed on a completely different trajectory. Our gadgets and computers aren’t just more helpful; they’re becoming much easier to use, introducing users of all ages. A recent study shows that almost 70 percent of seniors use the internet and 80 percent own a cell phone—double the number of just a few years ago. The increasing rate of adoption means older generations are recognizing the value and convenience of these devices.

For seniors who are living out their golden years in their own homes and caring for themselves, today’s technology is more than just convenient—it can be a huge boost to both their quality of life and their safety. Here are a few of the best modern tools to consider.

The way we view healthcare is changing—patients are starting to expect more convenient options and have access to more information about their health. New technology has helped telehealth to become a reality for many patients without easy access to healthcare facilities. It has helped healthcare facilities fill gaps in specialty care via telemedicine, and has helped all patients play a larger role in their own care. However, there are still obstacles ahead of widespread telemedicine adoption that will need to be addressed in coming years. Both telemedicine and analytics are major areas of interest for healthcare IT investors, reaching $197 million (analytics) and $171 million (telehealth) in 2016. These two areas go hand in hand, as big data analytics are helping to advance telemedicine and empower both physicians and patients. Here are five ways big data is playing a role in telehealth.

Empowering clients to advocate for their own needs is a big part of what we clinicians do—whether in a more traditional therapeutic setting or in emerging telehealth contexts. And every client is different. For clients in recovery from substance abuse, for example, the individualized treatment needs are diverse. That makes it even more imperative that clients be empowered to advocate for their health.

But how do you achieve this in a telehealth setting? Below are some insights from my work with clients with substance use disorders (SUDs) and their families.

Panelists discuss advanced telehealth legal and regulatory topics at SPS 2017.

“I go to five to six conferences per year, and this was by far the most interesting, beneficial and relevant to me. Thank you for offering more advanced and in-depth content.”

This is what one attendee had to say about the third annual Telemedicine & Telehealth Service Provider Summit (SPS), held in October 2017. SPS has a track record of garnering praise like this from its attendees. That’s why the Arizona Telemedicine Program and Southwest Telehealth Resource Center are bringing SPS back for the fourth time Oct. 8-9, 2018.

Adults with congenital heart disease have one thing in common:  loss to follow up.   Across the world, children born with congenital heart diagnoses often stop engaging with the medical system when they graduate from high school.  A lack of understanding of the need for lifelong care, no longer having parents insist on appointments, a fear of learning that something new is wrong, and just the business of life: education, work, family are all touted as potential drivers of this precipitous drop-off in cardiac care (https://professional.heart.org/professional/ScienceNews/UCM_464716_Children-with-Congenital-Heart-Disease-Are-Not-Getting-the-Follow-Up-They-Need.jsp).

It is challenging to combat these factors successfully.  However, like all consumers, there are mechanisms to re-engage adults with congenital heart disease in cardiac care: convenience and connection.  Once I recognized that, the answer was right in front of me:  Telemedicine is how I started to bring them back.

Congresswoman Sinema, CBWW program staff and friends of the program.

In Navajo County, Arizona, Manuel Ono and his wife, Lola, sat down with me last year to tell me about their lives, and how, in their remote and beautiful corner of northern Arizona, they stay connected to the world. The Onos, lifelong residents of Winslow, have been married for over 30 years and are now happily retired, spending many of their days looking after their grandkids. But like almost half of all adults in the U.S., Manuel has multiple chronic health conditions. He is diabetic and is also being treated for congestive heart failure.

Diabetes and heart failure are just two examples of the myriad of complex conditions that send people to the hospital, keep them from the comfort of their homes and loved ones and place a large strain on our country’s over-burdened, under-resourced health care system. Thankfully for the Onos and many others like them, important technological advances and innovative public-private collaborations are helping to combat this issue, enabling patients to easily take their health care into their own hands.

Seniors are becoming more tech savvy and digitally connected than ever before. Smartphone use has doubled in just the last four years with four in 10 seniors using this type of device. Six out of 10 seniors report using the internet, and about half of all seniors – around 24 million -- have internet access in their homes.

Today's technology does more than just make home life more convenient for seniors. It can also prolong their independence. From mobility assistive devices to ridesharing services to online social groups, here are some ways tech can keep seniors engaged, mobile and confident:


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