Types of Telehealth services preferred by geriatric patients during the COVID-19 pandemic
Escobar, Krystal Cruz
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Technologies' growing involvement in health care has led to continuous improvement in access, efficiency and quality of care, but specific challenges lie with addressing the barriers that impair the geriatric population from benefitting the use of new technology.1 The purpose of this quality improvement initiative was to obtain feedback from older adults and their caregivers regarding the usage of telehealth services during routine clinic care and their preferences for each type of visit. A convenience sample survey was administered to 55 geriatric patients older than 50 years old between June - October 2021 who have their medical at the University of North Texas Health Science Center - Center of Older Adults' ambulatory clinic. The survey included questions about the patients' demographics, the survey taker's relationship to the patient if not the patient, and their experiences with telehealth services. Additionally, the survey included questions using a Likert scale where the patient or caregiver ranked types of clinical visits they would prefer telehealth services for versus an in person clinic visit. Responses from the participants were compared based on the types of visits. Of the 55 respondents to the survey questionnaire, 37 were females and 18 were males and 45 were the older adult patients, 9 were family member caregivers and 1 non-family caregiver. The results indicated that the majority of patients and caregivers preferred the following types of visits as a telehealth visit: reviewing prescriptions, review of laboratory results, blood pressure management, and questions/screening about COVID-19. All other types of clinic visits, such as routine clinic visits for chronic conditions, acute illness symptoms, acute or chronic pain conditions, psychosocial needs and advanced care planning were preferred to be done in person. When asking about their experiences with telehealth services, geriatric patients used the telephone the most often for their medical needs. These findings indicate that geriatric patients prefer to continue traditional in person clinic visits for their acute and chronic disease management but are open to having discussions about their laboratory values, blood pressure management, reviewing medications and Covid-19 screening through telehealth. The high telephone telehealth usage suggests that the majority of geriatric patients are not comfortable and familiar with other forms of telehealth that includes the use of virtual platforms that has developed over recent years. Although telehealth cannot be used as a means to replace in person visits, it has been shown to have a place in clinical care for geriatric patients and their caregivers depending on the clinical needs.