A recently published national survey reported that clinicians have significant concerns about adults 65 and older relying on telehealth services for their medical needs. Over 7,000 clinicians responded to a survey funded by the West Health Institute, the applied medical research arm of West Health, a nonpartisan philanthropic organization. Survey respondents were comprised of geriatricians, primary care physicians, nurse practitioners, mental and behavioral health clinicians, along with clinicians from other specialties.
Clinicians from all categories indicated agreement that telehealth is potentially dangerous to older adults because their care needs are so medically complex. Importantly, 61% of the geriatricians and 57% of the primary care physicians who took part in the survey were among those who held this view. Other concerns around telehealth feasibility for older adults included physical or cognitive difficulties that could make telehealth unrealistic, as well as a lack of access to resources needed to make a telehealth visit effective.
The authors of the study note that the views reflected in the survey are important because the types of clinicians who took part serve as the “gatekeepers” of telehealth. Their choices about whether or not to use a telehealth platform are primary factors driving adoption. In a press release, Dr. Liane Wardlow, senior director of Clinical Research and Telehealth at West Health and lead author of the study reflected, “I was shocked to see so many clinicians believe it’s not safe to use remote care with seniors who have complex medical histories or disabilities … Our telehealth infrastructures must be designed to account for these factors. The greatest danger of all would be to exclude older patients from remote care.”
At the same time, the clinicians recognized telehealth’s potential benefits, as well. Approximately half (55%) indicated that telehealth improved healthcare for older adults by enhancing engagement between stakeholders.
The authors conclude that the results of the study show that despite the clinicians’ concerns about the use of telehealth among older patients, the respondents indicated that the overall advantages of telehealth outweigh potential drawbacks. Furthermore, the results indicate there is an opportunity to create guidance and resources for age-friendly telehealth. The Center for Medicare Advocacy recently published its own report examining the challenges and conveniences of telehealth based upon interviews from experts around the nation. The report also includes policy recommendations.
December 22, 2022 – C. St. John
 Wardlow, L., Roberts, C., Archbald-Pannone, L., Agha, Z., Alkema, G. E., Alwan, M., Age, L., Archbald-Pannone, L., Bates, J., Biese, K., Curtis, K. M., Darling, K. A., DeCherrie, L. V., Edson, B. S., Fletcher, D. A., Gaur, S., Gillespie, S. M., Handler, S. M., Harless, R., … Zifferblatt, J. (2022). Perceptions and Uses of Telehealth in the Care of Older Adults. Telemedicine and e-Health. https://doi.org/10.1089/tmj.2022.0378