The West Health Institute, the University of Virginia Department of Geriatrics, and the Mid-Atlantic Telehealth Resource Center have partnered to create the Center of Excellence for Telehealth and Aging (CE4TA).
A collection of toolkits, guides and research reports is available to help healthcare providers and health systems successfully implement “age-inclusive telehealth that enables older adults to successfully age in place and preserve their quality of life,” according to the center’s website. Experts who are part of the center are also available to answer questions about how to incorporate age-inclusive components into telehealth initiatives around the country.
Telehealth use among older adults spiked during the COVID-19 pandemic, said Laurie Archbald-Pannone, M.D., a UVA Health geriatrician who serves as medical director for the center. Before the COVID-19 public health emergency, about 13,000 patients enrolled in Medicare fee-for-service insurance plans received telehealth visits each week; by April 2020, this figure jumped to 1.7 million visits weekly – almost half of all visits by Medicare beneficiaries.
“While telehealth utilization rates have declined below the levels seen early in the pandemic, the two-year trends of telehealth use among Medicare beneficiaries continue to be higher than pre-pandemic levels,” Archbald-Pannone said in a statement. “When done well, telehealth can increase access to care, allowing patients to connect directly with their care team to discuss urgent or chronic issues. When not done well, telehealth can increase barriers to care and further limit access, especially in rural communities and communities with vulnerable access to care.”
The center has identified three principles vital for age-inclusive telehealth programs:
• Equitable and accessible: All people should have equal access to the same level of high-quality care regardless of age, ability, socioeconomic status, access to technology or health and technology literacy.
• Person-centered: Older adults should be at the center of decision-making —accounting for their care preferences, goals, wishes, abilities, support system and health conditions.
• Integrated and coordinated: Health systems should facilitate access to the information and support necessary to provide quality care to older adults, including cooperation and communication between and within systems and stakeholders.
The roadmap for this work is a set of recommended principles and guidelines created by a group of subject matter experts, including geriatricians, telehealth providers, health system administrators, and patient advocates. This group is called the Collaborative for Telehealth and Aging (C4TA).