The development of technologies has provided nurses and healthcare practitioners with more opportunities to deliver care to patients from remote areas or older adults. In this context, telehealth is the term used to identify all technologies which are utilized by healthcare providers to access patients from remote or isolated regions and deliver care. Telemedicine refers to the approach followed to provide such care; thus, telemedicine is associated with e-health services (Foster & Sethares, 2014).
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Researchers and clinicians discuss telehealth as an appropriate alternative to face-to-face care because of patients’ increased access to consultations and healthcare resources without depending on time, transportation, and geographic locations (Rutledge, Haney, Bordelon, Renaud, & Fowler, 2014). Although technology-based approaches to delivering care were primarily accepted by younger populations, today, it is possible to speak about the significance of telehealth for the gerontological population because of possibilities to conduct televisits or regular telemonitoring and provide support or teleconsultations for older people who need the constant care and who are limited in opportunities to visit physicians. The purpose of this paper is to discuss the application of telehealth and telemedicine to the gerontological population in detail.
In spite of the fact that telehealth and telemedicine are viewed as important approaches to providing high-quality care for patients from rural locations and isolated areas, there are some ethical and legal issues related to the topic. First, the legal character of organizing virtual intensive care units is discussed actively, and researchers are focused on predicting and preventing all possible risks for patients (Williams, Pennathur, Bossen, & Gloeckner, 2015). Second, many patients pay attention to such ethical and legal issues as the privacy of the data because of the risks of unauthorized sharing of recordings and private information (Foster & Sethares, 2014). While discussing issues of telehealth and telemedicine in relation to older people, it is also important to note that they can question the effectiveness of provided services and resist changes in care delivery because of their fears associated with using technologies.
Telehealth and telemedicine can be discussed as developing alternatives to the traditional method of providing care. Therefore, there are still some barriers to implementing telehealth widely. These obstacles can include access to technologies and the Internet, patients’ attitudes to using technologies and their possible biases, and the inability of technologies to replace some specific procedures (Williams et al., 2015). Furthermore, for older adults, barriers to telemedicine are even more obvious, and they include their undeveloped skills in using technologies, the level of readiness to learn new principles of interactions, and impossibilities to use technologies because of inappropriate devices, font sizes, and graphics among other factors (Foster & Sethares, 2014).
However, in spite of possible barriers, telehealth and telemedicine are associated with a range of opportunities and positive outcomes for patients, their families, communities, and nurses. Thus, nurses and healthcare practitioners working in the fields of radiology, dermatology, ophthalmology, psychiatry, and cardiology agree that telehealth is useful to provide constant telemonitoring, conduct easy assessments, organize teleconsultations, and guarantee support for patients regardless of their location (Williams et al., 2015).
With the focus on older people, families, and caregivers can actively cooperate with healthcare providers and nurses in order to deliver care and guarantee high-quality disease management. In this context, telemedicine is extremely important for older adults with chronic diseases (Foster & Sethares, 2014). As a result, using telehealth and telemedicine, patients can receive the required high-quality care and monitoring and organize self-management to improve their health outcomes.
Examples of the current implementation of telehealth to work with older patients or people who have chronic diseases and live in remote areas include the use of smartphones, computers, and remote patient monitoring systems (Foster & Sethares, 2014). Telehealth also covers the exchange of patient-related data, images, and test results, the use of devices to share the data regarding patients’ vital signs, and the use of devices for call recordings and video streaming (Williams et al., 2015). Currently, these systems are applied in the most remote areas in the context of national health programs in order to guarantee access to care for all individuals regardless of their social status, location, and abilities.
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While speaking about telehealth and telemedicine in relation to gerontological nursing, it is possible to state that this system is very beneficial. After addressing the identified barriers, it is probable to expect that older people with chronic disorders, including hypertension, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and arthritis, will receive on-going support and care. Telemedicine is also important to support caregivers who live with older patients who have Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and other disorders (Williams et al., 2015). In order to ensure that telehealth will contribute to delivering care for older patients, it is important to guarantee that they will receive low-tech devices and platforms that are easy to use, as well as necessary support and consultations.
For the gerontological population, telehealth can be viewed as an important resource to improve the communication and exchange of data between nurses, healthcare providers, and patients. As a result, the quality of care and support for older people increases. Technologies provide older adults with more opportunities to control their conditions without being limited by time and distance.
Foster, M. V., & Sethares, K. A. (2014). Facilitators and barriers to the adoption of telehealth in older adults: An integrative review. CIN: Computers, Informatics, Nursing, 32(11), 523-533.
Rutledge, C. M., Haney, T., Bordelon, M., Renaud, M., & Fowler, C. (2014). Telehealth: Preparing advanced practice nurses to address healthcare needs in rural and underserved populations. International Journal of Nursing Education Scholarship, 11(1), 1-9.
Williams, K., Pennathur, P., Bossen, A., & Gloeckner, A. (2015). Adapting telemonitoring technology use for older adults: A pilot study. Research in Gerontological Nursing, 9(1), 17-23.