Telemedicine is breaking into the mainstream healthcare environment as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. The University of Michigan National Poll on Health Aging found the percentage of older adults participating in telehealth increased from 4 percent in May 2019 to 30 percent in June 2020.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, telemedicine and telehealth have proven to be a lifeline for healthcare providers and patients. Telehealth services can facilitate public health mitigation strategies by increasing social distancing and reducing potential infectious exposures. Virtual visits can also reduce the strain on healthcare systems and reduce the use of personal protective equipment by healthcare providers.
The University of Michigan National Poll also identified strengths and weaknesses for older adults utilizing telehealth. Several of the strengths include more providers offering telehealth, less concerns over privacy and an increased interest in using telehealth for follow-up care. Weaknesses include older adults lack of technology experience and preference for face-to-face visits. Many reported the need for telehealth to replace cancelled face-to-face visits with 91 percent saying it was easy to connect with their doctor.
The rapid adoption among providers and patients has shown that telehealth is a viable option and a way to leverage modern technology to enhance access and overall patient experiences.
Responding to the need to obtain informed consent from patients for virtual visits, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) created a sample telehealth consent form that is easy to understand and guidance for clinicians on how to obtain informed consent for telehealth. The purpose of the consent form is to document the discussion took place and that the patient was informed and was able to understand information provided.