Skyping the doctor? Poll shows it’s not just for the young

Skyping the doctor? Poll shows it’s not just for the young

WASHINGTON — Every morning, 92-year-old Sidney Kramer wraps a blood pressure cuff around his arm and steps on a scale, and readings of his heart health beam to a team of nurses — and to his daughter’s smartphone — miles from his Maryland home.

Red flags? A nurse immediately calls, a form of telemedicine that is helping Kramer live independently by keeping his congestive heart failure under tight control.

“It’s reassuring both psychologically and physically. The way he’s put it to me, it’s like having a doctor appointment every morning,” said Miriam Dubin, Kramer’s daughter.

The vast majority of older Americans and their caregivers are ready to give virtual health care a try: Nearly 9 in 10 adults ages 40 and over would be comfortable using at least one type of telemedicine for themselves or an aging loved one, says a new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

But they want to make sure that an e-visit or other remote care is just as good as they’d get in person, and that their health information stays private, according to the survey released Thursday.

Long considered an option mainly for improving access to health care in rural areas with few doctors, telemedicine is gaining ground with tech-savvy younger consumers — they text their physician with questions or Skype with a mild complaint. For seniors with chronic illnesses or mobility problems that make simply reaching a doctor’s office an ordeal, telehealth could be more than a convenience. The greying population is raising serious questions about how the nation will provide enough quality long-term care.

But while private insurance increasingly covers certain services such as a video visit, seniors have had a harder time because Medicare tightly restricts what it will pay for.

That’s starting to change, with a law Congress passed last winter that expands Medicare coverage for such options as video visits to diagnose stroke symptoms or check on home dialysis patients. Also, Medicare Advantage programs used by a third of beneficiaries can start offering additional telehealth options.

“While the interest is huge, one of the big barriers remains reimbursement,” said Johns Hopkins University telemedicine chief Dr. Ingrid Zimmer-Galler, who has turned to grants to help fund such services as telepsychiatry for dementia patients. The new law “is really a huge step in the right direction. It certainly doesn’t cover everything.”

Costs are a major issue for people who need ongoing living assistance. Less than a third of adults age 40 and over have set aside any money for their future long term care needs, the AP-NORC survey shows, and more than half mistakenly think they’ll be able to rely on Medicare to help cover nursing care or home health aides.

Telemedicine will have to replace in-person care, not add to it, to help with those costs, cautioned Zimmer-Galler.

As access for seniors promises to grow, the AP-NORC Center poll shows widespread interest in telehealth. More than half of adults of all ages would be comfortable with a video visit via Skype or FaceTime to discuss medications, for ongoing care of a chronic illness or even for an urgent health concern.

In fact, adults 40 and older are just as open to at least some forms of telemedicine as those under 40, with one exception: The older crowd is slightly less comfortable discussing health care by text.

Among caregivers, 87 per cent say they’d be interested in using at least one form of telemedicine for that person’s medical needs.

“I think the parents would be happier at home instead of being in the doctor’s office waiting an hour to see a doctor for 15 minutes,” said Don Withey of Cortland, New York, who helps his 92-year-old father and 89-year-old mother get to their appointments. But, “we don’t know much more about it, other than the fact you can talk to a doctor over the computer or smartphone.”

Just 12 per cent of adults say they wouldn’t use any form of telemedicine.

There are concerns. More than 30 per cent of people worry about privacy or the security or health information. About half fear that telemedicine could lead to lower-quality care, the poll found.

“It’s not about having a video screen or Skype in the home or even a blood pressure cuff in the home. It’s about the team that’s behind it and the clinicians who are supporting the care of that patient,” said Rachel DeSantis, chief of staff at Johns Hopkins Home Care Group, which provides the 92-year-old Kramer’s remote monitoring.

The Hopkins program provides no-cost monitoring for a month or two to select high-risk patients after a hospitalization because research found it reduces their chances of readmission.

When the monitor recorded Kramer’s weight creeping up one week, nurses immediately knew it was fluid build-up, a heart failure symptom that needed quick treatment. The machine is programmed for some educational feedback, too.

Dubin says her dad learned quickly when to cut back. “If he enjoys a pastrami sandwich one day, he can see his numbers may be higher the next day.”

Dubin says the reassurance was worth privately paying, about $250 a month, to keep the monitoring once Kramer’s initial time in the program ended.

___

The survey was conducted March 13 to April 5 by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, with funding from the SCAN Foundation.

It involved interviews in English and Spanish with 1,945 adults, including 1,522 adults age 40 and over, who are members of NORC’s probability-based AmeriSpeak panel, which is designed to be representative of the U.S. population. Results from the full survey have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.3 percentage points.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

Skyping the doctor? Poll shows it’s not just for the young

Just Posted

Const. Jason Tress leaves Red Deer provincial court. An RCMP officer, whose name is under a publication ban, testified Tress sexually assaulted her at a party in 2012. Photo by PAUL COWLEY/Advocate staff
Ex-RCMP officer denies sexually assaulting colleague at 2012 party

Former Const. Jason Tress took the stand in his own defence on Wednesday

A new public washroom, proposed for downtown Red Deer, was taken out of the city’s 2021 budget so more questions can be answered about the proposal. (Advocate file photo).
Proposed public washroom for downtown Red Deer was pulled from 2021 budget

More questions need to be answered about the $511,500 project

Some Red Deerians complain about too much light “spillage” from new LED streetlights. (Black Press file photo).
Complaints about too-bright LED streetlights are discussed by Red Deer city council

Night-time light ‘spillage’ can be a problem, says councillor

A male broke into an apartment building on Hinshaw Drive on Nov. 29 and pried open 40 resident mailboxes, removing mail from the mailboxes. RCMP is looking to identify the suspect. (Photo courtesy of RCMP)
RCMP looking for suspect in Sylvan Lake mail thefts

Sylvan Lake RCMP is investigating a theft from more than 40 mailboxes… Continue reading

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau holds a press conference at Rideau Cottage during the COVID pandemic in Ottawa on Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Feds spending plan heads to confidence vote as provinces seek more health-care cash

OTTAWA — Provinces are criticizing the federal Liberals for failing to signal… Continue reading

Dan Cochrane, senior pastor at CrossRoads Church. Contributed photo
Crossroads Church closes its doors for two weeks after staff member tests positive for COVID-19

Crossroads Church made the decision to cancel in-house services for two weeks… Continue reading

Dan Cochrane, senior pastor at CrossRoads Church. Contributed photo
Crossroads Church closes its doors for two weeks after staff member tests positive for COVID-19

Crossroads Church made the decision to cancel in-house services for two weeks… Continue reading

Red Deer College will be offering an online course to help businesses navigate the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo by Mamta Lulla/Advocate staff
RDC to offer online course helping businesses navigate COVID-19

Red Deer College is launching an online course designed to help businesses… Continue reading

The Gulls Stadium is still under construction, but the team is preparing for opening day in June 2021, with player announcements. (Photo Courtesy of TD Aerials - Central Alberta)
Gulls release schedule for 2021 WCBL season

The Sylvan Lake Gulls are set to make history this spring. Monday,… Continue reading

Muna Castle, a student at St. Thomas Aquinas Middle School earned honourable mention for the Honouring Spirit - Indigenous Student Award, handed out by the Alberta School Councils’ Association. (Photo courtesy of Red Deer Catholic Schools)
Red Deer middle school students recognized for outstanding leadership

A pair of students from St. Thomas Aquinas Middle School received provincial… Continue reading

In this May 16, 2019, file photo, Salesforce chairman Marc Benioff speaks during a news conference, in Indianapolis. In a deal announced Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2020, business software pioneer Salesforce.com is buying work-chatting service Slack for $27.7 billion in a deal aimed at giving the two companies a better shot at competing against longtime industry powerhouse Microsoft. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings, File)
Salesforce buying work-chat service Slack for $27.7 billion

SAN RAMON, Calif. — Business software pioneer Salesforce.com is buying work-chatting service… Continue reading

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases speaks remotely during a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing on Capitol Hill on May 12, 2020 in Washington, DC. The committee is hearing testimony from members of the White House Coronavirus Task Force on how to safely open the country and get America back to work and school. (Win McNamee/Getty Images/TNS)
People magazine reveals its ‘2020 People of the Year’

LOS ANGELES — People magazine has named George Clooney, Dr. Anthony Fauci,… Continue reading

Zeke Thurston, of Big Valley, Alta., rides Lunatic Party during saddle bronc rodeo semi-final action at the Calgary Stampede in Calgary, Sunday, July 14, 2019. Thurston is among five Canadians competing in the 2020 world championship of rodeo Dec. 3-12 in Arlington, Texas. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Rough ride to National Finals Rodeo for Canadians in pandemic season

Levi Simpson and his horse Stetson are about to trample the turf… Continue reading

Team Manitoba celebrate after defeating Team Ontario to win the Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Moose Jaw, Sask., Sunday, Feb. 23, 2020. Curling Canada wants Calgary's Canada Olympic Park to be a curling hub for the season's top events. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
CP NewsAlert: Calgary facility set to become curling hub during pandemic

CP NewsAlert: Calgary facility set to become curling hub during pandemic

Most Read