Middle-age is when most adults are diagnosed with a chronic health disorder such as hardening of the arteries and diabetes (Type-2). Once a chronic disease has been diagnosed, it requires lifelong management so symptoms do not worsen. Healthcare check-ups to see whether medication prescribed to manage the disorder is actually working are common. For senior-aged people and other adults with disabling symptoms, virtual healthcare offers a way to have physician check-ups, request prescription re-fills, and obtain answers to questions without having to visit a doctor’s office.  

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 37% of adults used virtual healthcare in the form of telemedicine in 2021. Virtual healthcare options differ tremendously, and some are easier for senior-aged adults to use than others. A Forbes magazine article in 2021 described six of the best virtual healthcare options available at that time. Topping its list was Teladoc, which is an “on-demand” service that connects a caller to a healthcare clinician and is covered by various health insurance plans (including some Medicare Advantage plans). Meanwhile, advances in Artificial Intelligence (AI) are enabling the design of apps focused even more specifically on supporting adults living with chronic health diseases. 

Four types of telehealth available on apps for patient care

There are four different types of telehealth that are available either separately or in combination with each other (per the Center for Connected Health Policy). These are most often called:  

  • Live video (which uses teleconferencing software, and enables “real-time” interaction between a patient and healthcare provider). 
  • Store-and-forward (which involves electronic transmission of medical information such as documents, digital images, and pre-recorded videos). 
  • Remote patient monitoring (which involves personal health and data collection that is transmitted to a healthcare provider for use in providing care and support to that patient). 
  • Mobile health (which are basically healthcare and public health “best practices” and education supported by mobile technological devices such as Smart Phones). 

For people with chronic health disorders, the utilization of all four types may be advisable in order to prevent the necessity of frequent “in-person” healthcare visits. In particular, receiving daily reminders to take medication (or to remember an upcoming “in-person” or virtual appointment with a clinician) can be beneficial for elderly people with cognitive impairments. In this way, receiving virtual healthcare can potentially enable a person with mild dementia to remain in the home environment for more years, rather than be relocated to a nursing home. 

Encryption, virtual telehealth services, and videoconferencing

A medical research article in 2022 in Clinical Liver Disease noted that healthcare providers need to comply with the federal law called HIPAA that is focused on protecting patient privacy. For this reason, it specifies that platforms such as TikTok, Facebook Live, and Twitch are not acceptable for telehealth interactions. While Zoom (which is frequently used for social group events and business meetings) is among the most popular videoconferencing platforms, it lacks the encryption required for HIPAA compliance. In contrast, some platforms such as Doxy.me are HIPAA-compliant.  

Health insurance and virtual healthcare

Consequent to the Covid-19 pandemic, more health insurance companies than ever are covering the cost of virtual healthcare visits. Medicare coverage for telehealth was flexible during the declared federal Covid-19 public health emergency ending on May 11, 2023 (but with an extension of many Medicare telehealth coverage provisions through December 31, 2024). Moreover, an increasing number of Medicare Advantage plans are offering broader coverage for telehealth, including covering the cost of certain digital devices. Meanwhile, mental health therapists are typically paid 20-30% less for virtual therapy sessions as compared to “in-person” sessions, which is a likely reason that many health insurance companies are now covering the cost of virtual therapy sessions. 

Low-income senior-aged people are far more likely to be affected by chronic health disorders than their higher-income counterparts (per a medical research article in Healthcare). Yet, Medicaid plans (that are state-administered) do not cover virtual healthcare as extensively as Medicare or private health insurance plans. Therefore, low-income seniors may not be able to afford the “out-of-pocket” costs in the form of co-pays for virtual healthcare that is required of them. 

Mental health and substance abuse treatment: How virtual healthcare can save lives

Federal law (the Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 [MHPAEA]) basically specifies that group health plans and health insurance issuers that provide mental health or substance use disorder benefits cannot limit these benefits to an extent greater than the limits on the medical/surgical benefits. It is well-recognized that adults with chronic health disorders are more likely to experience mental health disorders (such as clinical depression and anxiety) than adults without chronic health disorders.  

Early intervention for a mental health disorder can prevent development of dependency upon a substance (such as alcohol) for self-medication. Since a mental health disorder and/or substance abuse problem is linked to decreased self-management of chronic health disorders, access to virtual mental health therapy and substance abuse treatment for adults with chronic disorders may lessen the likelihood of worsened overall health status. Thus, this type of virtual care may be life-saving. 

Partner with Ōmcare

With the Ōmcare Home Health Hub’s open API integration, you can run your telehealth services directly on the Hub – eliminating the need for disparate solutions that account for hardware. Partner with us to reach more people and ensure better health.