HumanInsight Telemedicine Use by Older Adults in a COVID-19 Epicenter
J Emerg Med. 2022 Feb 7:S0736-4679(22)00071-3. doi: 10.1016/j.jemermed.2022.01.024. Online ahead of print.
BACKGROUND: In early 2020, New York City was the epicenter of the Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic in the United States. Older adults were at especially high risk. Telemedicine (TM) was used to shift care from overburdened emergency departments (EDs) to provide health care to a community in lockdown. TM options presented unique challenges to our diverse older adult population, including visual, hearing, cognitive, and language limitations.
OBJECTIVE: Our objective was to evaluate the use of TM during the peak of the pandemic in New York City.
METHODS: We conducted a retrospective chart review of patients 65 years and older evaluated remotely via TM during our pandemic surge. Chart extraction was performed by six emergency physicians. Outcomes included demographics, technical limitations, rates of ED referral, and 30-day mortality.
RESULTS: During the study period, a total of 140 encounters were reviewed. The mean age was 73 years. Overall, 20% of patients in the cohort were emergently referred to the ED. Use of TM by this age cohort increased 20-fold as compared with a similar time frame pre-pandemic. ED referral was highest in those over 75 (45.9% > 75 years). Forty-three percent used family to assist. Thirty-day mortality was 7%.
CONCLUSION: TM use by older adults grew substantially at our institution during our initial COVID-19 surge. The same-day emergent referral rate and mortality rate reflect the high acuity represented in this cohort and points to the need for telehealth providers that are trained in triage and emergency medicine with a knowledge of local resource availability.
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