WCM-Q research investigates use of telehealth for older people during COVID-19 pandemic
Researchers at Weill Cornell Medicine-Qatar (WCM-Q) have reviewed the strengths and weaknesses of using telehealth approaches to deliver care to older people during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The study, conducted by researchers of the Institute for Population Health (IPH) at WCM-Q, determined that telehealth can provide safe and effective means to deliver care for older people during the pandemic and beyond. However, the effectiveness of telehealth approaches is reliant upon good communications infrastructure that require significant investment by government and industry, meaning telehealth services are generally limited in both scope and quality in low and low-middle income countries. Furthermore, appropriate help from physicians, caregivers and technologists is essential in order for telehealth to work for older people.
Access to care has been severely curtailed for older people in countries all over the world during the pandemic by lockdown restrictions, unwillingness to visit healthcare facilities for fear of the virus, and healthcare facilities being overwhelmed by COVID-19 patients. As such, telehealth rapidly emerged as a useful and cost-effective means to deliver care to older people, the study noted. However, older people often have complex needs that are challenging to meet using only telehealth approaches. Older people may also struggle to use modern telecommunication devices, have physiological or cognitive difficulties that make telehealth approaches problematic, and may be subject to provision of substandard telehealth services in residential care homes.
The research, titled Telehealth Use in Geriatrics Care during the COVID-19 Pandemic—A Scoping Review and Evidence Synthesis, has been published in The International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. The authors of the study are Dr. Sathyanarayanan Doraiswamy, Assistant Director of the IPH, Anupama Jithesh, Projects Coordinator, Dr. Ravinder Mamtani, Vice Dean for Student Affairs-Admissions, Population Health, and Lifestyle Medicine, Dr. Amit Abraham, Instructor of Population Health Sciences/Projects Specialist and, Dr. Sohaila Cheema, Assistant Dean for the IPH. The researchers analyzed 79 scientific articles published between 1 January and 20 August 2020, including a number of studies listed in the World Health Organization’s global COVID-19 research database.
The authors concluded that telehealth has been of great use in delivering care to older people during the pandemic and that these approaches hold great promise for the future. But they caution that national governments must provide significant investment in telehealth services to ensure fair access for all older people, and that training is required to allow caregivers, physicians, other healthcare professionals and technologists gain the skills to help older people engage effectively with telehealth approaches.
Click here to read the study in full.