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38 Percent of Older Adults in U.S. Not Ready for Video Doctor Visits

Telephone visits may reach more patients, but 20 percent of older adults not ready for telephone visits

MONDAY, Aug. 3, 2020 (HealthDay News) -- An estimated 38 percent of all older adults in the United States are not ready for video visits with physicians, according to a research letter published online Aug. 3 in JAMA Internal Medicine.

Kenneth Lam, M.D., from the University of California in San Francisco, and colleagues completed a cross-sectional study of 4,525 community-dwelling adults using 2018 data from the National Health and Aging Trends Study to assess the prevalence of telemedicine unreadiness among Medicare beneficiaries aged 65 years or older.

The researchers found that 38 percent of all older adults (13 million) in the United States were not ready for video visits in 2018, mainly due to inexperience with the technology. The estimated number of older adults who were still not ready was 10.8 million (32 percent) when assuming individuals in the role of social supports knew how to set up a video visit. An estimated 20 percent of older patients were not ready for telephone visits due to difficulty hearing or communicating or dementia. Unreadiness was more prevalent in older patients, men, those who were not married, Black or Hispanic individuals, those residing in a nonmetropolitan area, and those with less education, lower income, and poorer self-reported health.

"For some, such as those with dementia and social isolation, in-person visits are already difficult and telemedicine may be impossible," the authors write. "For these patients, clinics and geriatric models of care such as home visits are essential."

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