Telemedicine in an Age-Friendly Health Environment

posted on Tuesday, August 18, 2020

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 IHI.org to read more.

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