Telehealth visits skyrocket for older adults, but concerns remain

By | August 19, 2020
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female physician on laptop screen
(Michigan Medicine Headlines)

One in four older Americans had a virtual medical visit in the first three months of the COVID-19 pandemic, most of them by video, a new telehealth poll finds. That’s much higher than the 4 percent of people over 50 who said they had ever had a virtual visit with a doctor in a similar poll taken in 2019.

Yet not all older adults see virtual care as an adequate substitute for in-person care, even in a pandemic, the National Poll on Healthy Aging findings show. Both the 2019 and 2020 polls were done by U-M’s Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation with support from AARP and Michigan Medicine.

“These findings have implications for the health providers who have ramped up telehealth offerings rapidly, and for the insurance companies and government agencies that have quickly changed their policies to cover virtual visits,” said Lorraine Buis, a health information technology researcher at U-M who helped design the poll and interpret its results. “Tracking change over time could inform future efforts, and highlights the need for much more research on concerns, barriers and optimal use of telehealth by older adults.”