As WebMD’s chief medical officer, John Whyte, MD, is in a novel place to see each the present state of medical look after America’s older adults and the best way issues are trending for the long run. We requested him to share his perception on just a few matters, together with a bit of recommendation.

WebMD: What are among the greatest entry to well being care points going through older adults right now?

JW: Value, transportation, and high quality of care stay among the greatest points with regards to well being look after older adults. Medicare doesn’t cowl 100% of prices, and lots of sufferers wrestle to pay for his or her prescriptions and physician payments. Consequently, typically they don’t go to the physician as usually as they should, and infrequently they’ll’t refill their prescriptions. Lack of enough transportation has made it troublesome for a lot of older adults to obtain care — they merely can’t get to their appointments. As older adults develop extra well being situations and their time with the physician will get shorter and shorter, it may be troublesome to handle all their well being care wants. Consequently, it may be arduous to maintain situations like diabetes and blood stress underneath management.

WebMD: How will know-how change the best way older adults entry well being care throughout the subsequent decade?

JW: Everybody, together with older adults, must grow to be extra tech-savvy when partaking with the well being care system. Digital instruments, akin to sensors and trackers, have gotten extra helpful in managing these situations, like diabetes and hypertension, that brief workplace visits don’t all the time give us time to handle. Digital actuality instruments will even grow to be extra widespread. Provided that many individuals didn’t develop up with some of these applied sciences, it would make entry to well being care tougher for some teams. We want to ensure everybody — particularly older adults — has entry to improvements that may enhance their expertise with the well being care system and result in higher outcomes.

WebMD: How will COVID-19 change the character of doctor-patient interplay?

JW: Within the short-term, COVID-19 has had monumental influence on the doctor-patient relationship. Immediately virtually each go to became a digital go to. Sadly, in some circumstances, each the physician and the affected person weren’t adequately ready for this abrupt change. Many individuals had been unnoticed utterly or obtained lower than optimum care. However the information isn’t all dangerous. For others, it was a approach to convey the physician to them, as a substitute of them having to go to the physician. Know-how may help us resolve a few of these transportation points I referred to above. As we transfer into “the brand new regular,” I believe nearly all of physician visits can be in-person, however telehealth will play a a lot bigger position. I additionally assume we’ll see extra providers delivered instantly within the house. 

WebMD: What’s the No. 1 piece of recommendation you’d give to a affected person or caregiver about the way to efficiently work together with the well being care system?

JW: Whether or not you’re a self-advocate or caring for another person, a profitable interplay with the well being care system requires persistence. Everyone knows the phrase, “the squeaky wheel will get the grease.” Typically it’s important to be a that squeaky wheel. The well being care system may be very difficult to navigate. There are a number of rules than can influence your entry to care, and they are often complicated. Typically your method doesn’t work the primary time. So you have to maintain at it when accessing sure providers, and you have to communicate up. There’s additionally an fascinating dynamic with older adults with regards to well being care: They usually say they don’t need to trouble their physician, or they need to be a “good affected person.” We’ve got to assist them perceive that being affected person or advocate for another person means getting what you have to ensure you get high quality care.

WebMD: If you happen to had been speaking to a cherished one over 70, what’s the No. 1 piece of well being care recommendation you’ll give them with regard to taking good care of themselves?

JW: It’s by no means too late to reap the advantages of a wholesome life-style. If you happen to smoke, give up. If you happen to aren’t bodily lively, begin slowly — even when it means merely not sitting as a lot all through the day. Being lively doesn’t imply having to go to the fitness center. There’s rather a lot you are able to do at house. Check out what you’re consuming and begin to deal with meals as medication. It may be as highly effective as a prescription drug — and in some circumstances, it might enable you do away with just a few medicine you’re taking. Lastly, hearken to your physique. Once you don’t really feel good, examine in together with your physician.

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