Barriers to Telemedicine Use in Older People

If you have a senior parent or family member, you may be aware of some challenges that they (or you, as a caregiver) encounter in coordinating and facilitating their medical care. Some common difficulties include things like keeping track of medical appointments and treatment plans, arranging transportation to medical centers, avoiding the risk of getting infected with common viruses at the doctor’s office, getting medical questions answered, and more.

Many of these challenges can be resolved with the use of telemedicine. For those with access to high-speed internet and devices as well as participating care providers, telemedicine tools (virtual appointments, remote monitoring devices, cloud file storage, and wearable health devices) have offered a safe and convenient way to get medical care since the onset of the pandemic. Virtual appointments in particular eliminate the logistical difficulties and potential health risks of attending traditional in-person appointments

Yet where telehealth access for seniors is concerned, many barriers remain. Here are some of the challenges seniors face in using telemedicine:


  • Physical impairments. Older adults may have difficulty using technology due to physical limitations such as arthritis, poor vision, unsteady hands, or difficulty hearing. Even a mild physical impairment can make it difficult for them to use a computer, tablet, or smartphone to engage with telemedicine services. 

  • Cognitive impairments. Older adults may also have a cognitive impairment such as memory loss or confusion, which can make it difficult for them to understand how to use telemedicine technology. This group has one of the greatest challenges in using digital health tools, since they may face additional difficulty in learning to use these tools and retaining the information.

  • – Lack of high-speed internet access or devices at home. Many older adults do not have access to high-speed internet or devices capable of video conferencing. This can stem from the same causes that affect many younger adults, such as the affordability of these tools or the availability of high-speed internet in remote areas. Alternatively, seniors may not have these devices at home simply because they are uninterested in them or feel they are optional luxuries rather than necessary tools for daily life.

  • Lack of digital literacy. Older retired adults—who may not have moved their entire lives online during the pandemic as their younger counterparts did—may not be familiar or comfortable using 21st century technology. They may need assistance using tools like video conferencing platforms, tablets, smartphones, or wearable devices.
  •  – Distrust in telemedicine. Older adults may be skeptical of telemedicine and prefer to receive care in person. They may not trust digital technology or feel comfortable using it for something as serious or sensitive as medical concerns. Studies show that there are 4 major factors in seniors’ willingness to use telemedicine. These include perceived usefulness, degree of effort required, peer and care provider opinion of telemedicine use, and the availability of tech support assistance.  

Some Ways To Overcome Barriers to Telemedicine for Seniors

To overcome these barriers, seniors can seek out educational and technological resources that will allow them to comfortably use essential telemedicine tools. Healthcare providers can also work with community organizations to provide internet access and digital literacy training to older adults in need. A few ways to overcome digital barriers for seniors include: 

 – Ensuring patients have adaptive devices for physical impairments, such as screen readers

 – Seeking out or starting community programs that provide high-speed internet and internet-ready devices access to seniors

 – Providing culturally sensitive instructional resources and technical assistance in multiple languages

 – Lending patients remote monitoring devices, which can minimize the need for medical appointments

 – Facilitating virtual appointments via phone conversation rather than video (which helps to eliminate both access- and literacy-related challenges)


Remove Telemedicine Barriers With BeamUp and Beam Healthcare

Beam Healthcare provides telemedicine services to medical centers and healthcare systems of every size and location. This makes healthcare more accessible for families and children in low-income communities and medical deserts across the globe. 

Beam Healthcare’s partner BeamUp offers programming to help underinvested youth succeed in every aspect of life. High-quality healthcare, education, and other support systems are extremely important for helping young people prepare for a bright future. Our goal is to provide opportunities for youth and young adults of lower socioeconomic status to equip themselves with the tools needed to lift themselves out of poverty and violence.

At the core of BeamUp is access to quality education about a healthy lifestyle, professional education, plant-based whole foods, making climate-friendly choices, and mindfulness. Help us support and teach kids by shopping for swag or donating today!