New research suggests that virtual treatment could make all the difference when it comes to healthcare for elderly patients

The use of online pharmacies and virtual doctors has risen dramatically over recent years, with more and more people choosing to solve their medical concerns online rather than by visiting the GP’s office. But new research from the US has shown that the benefits of virtual doctors could be even greater than previously thought, particularly for providing virtual treatment for elderly patients.

What are the benefits of virtual doctors?

The University of Rochester in New York conducted a study, which discovered that virtual treatment for elderly patients can provide healthcare just as effectively as a real-life doctor.

The study analysed various versions of virtual healthcare, including an American program that uses video appointments to connect professionals with patients. This particular study focuses primarily on those living with Parkinson’s disease and connected neurologists to 195 Parkinson’s patients across the US.

The results of the study found that the care provided by virtual doctors proved to be just as effective as in-person visits to the doctor’s office, whilst saving patients on average 169 minutes and nearly 100 miles of travel distance per visit.

When considering virtual treatment for elderly patients, Parkinson’s is a good example of a condition that can be treatment remotely. However, virtual treatment has also been shown to be beneficial in treating other conditions like diabetes, pregnancy and sickness.

Lead author and professor of the study Ray Dorsey explained the benefits the experiment highlighted, saying: “Virtual house calls for chronic diseases like Parkinson’s are not only as effective as in-person care but broader adoption of this technology has the potential to expand access to patient centred care.

“We now have the ability to reach anyone, anywhere.”

Virtual treatment for elderly patients can make all the difference to those living with conditions like Parkinson’s

Parkinson’s can be a hugely debilitating disease for those living with it, and can lead to severe physical limitations. Sufferers often experience tremors in the limbs, difficulty moving, muscle tightness and a loss of balance. You’re unlikely to be able to drive with Parkinson’s and even walking for long distances can become difficult. All of these factors made the condition a good source for the university’s study into the benefits of virtual doctors.

Currently, Parkinson’s affects over 10 million people worldwide, and that number is expected to double in parts of the world where the population is ageing – such as the UK and US – by 2030. As the condition almost exclusively affects older adults, most patients live in more suburban areas, often with limited access to healthcare professionals. This, combined with the nature of the illness can make actually getting to an appointment difficult for older adults.

This leaves huge potential for virtual treatment for elderly patients to improve the care that those living with Parkinson’s and other conditions are receiving, as online healthcare allows those with limited mobility to access the care they need.

“We can shop, bank, make travel reservations, take classes, and buy groceries via the internet from the comfort of our own homes,” says Dorsey, “but too many patients still cannot access healthcare.”

It’s not just elderly patients who can reap the benefits of virtual doctors

The benefits of virtual doctors and other digital healthcare solutions, such as online pharmacies, stretch far beyond Parkinson’s patients and the elderly. Web-based treatments can benefit anybody who lives in a remote location or who is suffering with a health concern that they are too embarrassed to visit a GP about.

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