A recent study in Massachusetts found that adults 65 and older received 52% fewer telehealth visits during the pandemic than other age groups. Robert MacArthur, MD, CCA’s Chief Medical Officer, discussed some of the challenges that many seniors face when using telehealth services.
One key challenge was the lack of a device. According to a survey conducted by CCA, only about half of members “had the basic tools needed to engage in virtual health care.” To overcome this barrier, CCA helped its members obtain smartphones through a federal assistance program and contracted with a company to provide technical support.
“MacArthur said telehealth can be beneficial for seniors, who may lack transportation or may benefit from more frequent check-ins, which are easier to schedule virtually. Yet there are several factors that lead to lower telehealth utilization by older adults. Their complex medical needs can require hands-on care. Some have cognitive or physical impairments that make it harder to use telehealth. Some live in rural areas that lack high-speed internet, and some may not trust they will get an accurate diagnosis virtually. ‘You hear the term digital divide…it’s really not about age, it’s about technical literacy and the ability to use the devices,’ MacArthur said.”