Virtual healthcare proves highly effective for older adults

Written by:
Dr. Geoffrey W. Rutledge
Chief Medical Officer and Co-founder
Last updated on May 25, 2021

While the pandemic produced a massive increase in the use of virtual healthcare, many have questioned its effectiveness in older patient populations. The assumption was that seniors have less familiarity and comfort with technology, and that seniors more often need care that cannot be delivered virtually.

Now, a sizable study published in the Journal of Telemedicine and Telecare has demonstrated that virtual healthcare is in fact highly effective for patients aged 60 or older with both urgent and non-emergent healthcare needs.

Researchers looked retrospectively at more than 300,000 visits by patients in three U.S. health systems between late 2015 and early 2019. These patients received a first visit either by in-person care or via virtual healthcare (including talking with a doctor, nurse practitioner, or physician assistant by video, voice, or text/e-visit).

  • Analysis showed that virtual healthcare could solve urgent and non-emergent issues 84.0–86.7% of the time. For comparison, in-person visits resolved similar issues approximately 91% of the time.
  • When virtual healthcare or in-person visits required follow-up, more than 95% of issues were resolved in less than three visits.
  • The researchers found that resolution rates via virtual healthcare were highest for chills, allergies, muscle spasms, oral pain, urinary tract infections, and vaginal discharge/itch/vaginitis; and the greatest gaps in resolution rates between virtual healthcare (lower) and in-person (higher) were in addressing headaches/migraines and gastrointestinal disorders.

Given the effectiveness of virtual healthcare for people aged 60 and older, we should expect the expanded use to obviate challenges of physical access to doctors. We can also anticipate that virtual healthcare will lower the cost of care without compromising on quality of care among older adults.

HealthTap is proud to be a leader in virtual healthcare, enabling people across the U.S. to get urgent care, receive guidance and counsel, and manage primary care with board-certified physicians.

Dr. Geoffrey W. Rutledge

Dr. Geoffrey W. Rutledge

Chief Medical Officer and Co-founder
Geoffrey W. Rutledge MD, PhD, FACMI, Chief Medical Officer and co-founder at HealthTap, is a double-board certified physician who practiced and taught medicine for more than 25 years. He earned a PhD in medical computer science from Stanford, was an NIH-funded researcher, and served on faculty at Harvard, Stanford, and UCSD medical schools. Before HealthTap, he created the first consumer health website and PHR at Healtheon/WebMD. Learn more about HealthTap's Medical Editorial Board at https://www.healthtap.com/about-doctors/
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