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Use of telemedicine-based care for the aging and elderly: promises and pitfalls

Authors Bujnowska-Fedak MM, Grata-Borkowska U

Received 20 January 2015

Accepted for publication 20 March 2015

Published 7 May 2015 Volume 2015:3 Pages 91—105


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single anonymous peer review

Peer reviewer comments 3

Editor who approved publication: Professor Yelena Yesha

Maria Magdalena Bujnowska-Fedak, Urszula Grata-Borkowska

Department of Family Medicine, Wroclaw Medical University, Wroclaw, Poland

Abstract: Telemedicine-based care provides remote health and social care to maintain people's autonomy and increase their quality of life. The rapidly aging population has come with a significant increase in the prevalence of chronic diseases and their effects, and thus the need for increased care and welfare. The elderly have become one of the main target groups for telecare technologies. Smart home systems allow older adults to live in the environment of their choice and protect them against institutionalization or placement in a nursing home. It gives the elderly person a feeling of reassurance and safety, and appears to be one of the most promising approaches to facilitate independent living in a community-dwelling situation. Telecare solutions give a new opportunity for diagnosis, treatment, education, and rehabilitation, and make it possible to monitor patients with a number of chronic diseases. It also reduces socioeconomic disparity with regard to access to care and gives equal chances to patients from urban and rural areas. However, although telecare has undisputed benefits, it also has some limitations. Older people are often resistant to use of new technology, in particular acquiring the knowledge and skills necessary for use of electronic devices and computer systems. Further, privacy and security are important elements when building confidence in telemedicine systems. Leaking of sensitive information, such as health or test results, may have a negative and far-reaching impact on the personal and professional life of the patient. Telemedicine-based care should now be personalized for the needs, capabilities, and preferences of the elderly, with adaptation over time as care needs evolve. If technologies are introduced that are familiar, usable, desirable, and cost-effective, and able to be adapted to seniors' lives and plans, then telecare would become an integral part of the lives of the elderly in the near future, allowing them to function independently in a friendly home environment.

Keywords: home telecare, aging, elderly, benefits, barriers

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