The COVID-19 pandemic all but halted many in-person medical appointments, and as a result, telemedicine has gained traction and popularity.
Beyond the apparent convenience, additional benefits of telemedicine have surfaced for two age groups in particular: seniors and children.
Virtual appointments provide peace of mind
Faith Atai, MD, a geriatric and internal medicine specialist at UT Physicians, has noticed a marked difference in her patients.
“Senior patients are more relaxed in their own environments,” said Atai, who is also an associate professor in the Division of Geriatric and Palliative Medicine at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth.
“I catch them smiling, and they are more responsive when using telemedicine. A lot of times, they are excited to see me.”
Dorothy Kaylor, one of Atai’s patients, can attest to the benefits of seeing her physician virtually.
“I have Parkinson’s disease, so I really appreciate the ability to see my doctor from the comfort of my own home,” said Kaylor, who is 78. “The telemedicine option gives me peace of mind, which is everything, especially during this pandemic.”
Caregivers of seniors are also seeing a difference. Napolean Henry takes care of his wife, Betty, and says that the telemedicine has been positive for both of them.
“Telemedicine takes the stress out of getting to and from a doctor’s appointment,” said Henry.
Children are seeing benefits of telemedicine, too
Another patient population benefitting from telemedicine is children.
Anna Sand, LCSW, a child and adolescent counselor with UT Physicians was at first skeptical about using telemedicine to see her patients because her work is interactive with lots of play therapy. As she continued with her appointments, she began to see some positive differences with her patients when she conducted visits virtually.
“When children come to my office, they are guarded because they are not in their environment,” she said. “But I noticed when children are in their own homes, they open up to me more quickly, and at the same time, I receive more clues about their home environment and what may be going on behind the scenes.”
Although she was doubtful about continuing play therapy via telemedicine, she has learned that it works.
“The kids can show me their toys, and I can still track their play,” she said. “This way, they have an opportunity to show me their toys and share, which is validating for them.”