Telemedicine in an Age-Friendly Health Environment

In an environment where telemedicine is being used more than ever, it's important to make sure that older patients receive the care and attention they need.

As telemedicine use explodes and the population simultaneously “grays,” the “age-friendly” healthcare system becomes more important in your practice. And with the isolating effects of social distancing, the mental health of older adults becomes a real concern. How do you combine the telemedicine visit and address isolation issues while maintaining your effectiveness in patient care?

A Real-Life Scenario

In one recent real-life case, a 94-year-old patient had not physically seen anyone for quite some time and was glad to have the opportunity for a telemedicine visit. While it was just a wellness check and normal health issues were addressed, the experience provided the patient with more than just a physician visit — the appointment reinforced to the patient they were still connected even though they were physically apart.

The 4 M's

When dealing with older patients, regardless of your specialty, it is particularly important to reinforce the 4 M’s of the Age-Friendly Framework. (Keep in mind that the importance of the Ms may vary depending on the scope of your practice.)

  • Matters most (what)
  • Medication
  • Mentation
  • Mobility

When the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) released their initial article in 2017 about age-friendly health systems, the focus was on these areas:

  • Creating an environment where a comprehensive care assessment was re-evaluated frequently
  • Addressing mental health and cognitive issues
  • Using the teach-back method to ensure patient understanding of your treatment plan
  • Being culturally literate
  • Using shared decision-making to ensure you recognize the patient’s care preferences.

With the current pandemic and the need/desire to use telemedicine, the Age-Friendly Health System can address these same issues for well visits, wellness checks and non-urgent issues while providing some welcomed emotional contact. The IHI recently issued a guide on what to say, providing a script illustrating how to use these four M’s in a telemedicine visit. Consider adapting the concept for your practice— visit to read more.