Without assistance, older adults might miss critical access to doctors and follow-up care. Telehealth visits and medical appointment transportation help them take charge of their health with less stress and give them the quality care they deserve.
Many elderly and disabled individuals cannot drive to doctor’s appointments. Older adults living on their own may not have relatives, friends, or neighbors to take them to medical appointments, and mass transit poses challenges to individuals with limited mobility. Traveling to and from medical appointments, especially without assistance, exhausts many people with chronic conditions.
Skipping medical appointments seriously affects health outcomes. An infection the doctor could have treated in the office may get worse and require a trip to the emergency room. Routine screenings are crucial to detecting cancer early and improving survival rates, and patients with chronic illnesses become far sicker if their provider cannot manage their conditions proactively. These issues contribute to health disparities in communities with fewer resources. But any individual who struggles to attend in-office doctor’s visits has options to get the care they need.
Telehealth: A Virtual Doctor’s Visit
Not all health concerns require an in-person encounter with a doctor. The U.S .Department of Health and Human Services recommends telehealth for various health conditions, including high blood pressure and diabetes. A telehealth visit does not replace routine visits with a primary care physician or emergency medical care, but it can bridge the gap for patients with limited mobility or transportation barriers.
In-home medical monitoring devices have enhanced telehealth accessibility for patients and providers. Blood pressure and blood glucose monitors, weight scales and pulse oximeter devices all give doctors valuable data on health status.
Most health plans now cover telehealth visits, often in multiple languages.
Some doctors may also be able to answer non-urgent medical questions through an online, secure patient website or app, eliminating the need for a visit or phone call.
Finding a Ride: Alternate Transportation Options
The Americans with Disabilities Act requires that public transit agencies provide accommodations to individuals with specific qualifications. However, passengers must usually arrange trips at least one day in advance, often with other passengers who need similar assistance. That gives them less flexibility in scheduling their pickup time. Some communities require their taxi fleets to have accessible vehicles.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) mandates that Medicaid covers non-emergency medical transportation for qualifying individuals. Most Medicare Advantage plans offer wheelchair-accessible rides for medical appointments. Health plans partner with ride-share services to provide no or low-cost medical appointment transportation for qualified patients.
Eldercare Locator is a U.S. Administration on Aging public service that connects senior citizens with local resources, including transportation. Users can search for services by ZIP code or city and state. Some nonprofit and volunteer organizations offer ride assistance for free or minimal cost. If asked, they may also stay with the patient during the appointment to help them to and from the exam room and make sure they get follow-up information.
To get familiar with telehealth visits or alternate transportation to a doctor’s visit, plan ahead. Individuals must check eligibility and know what their insurance plan covers. They also must learn the routine to schedule rides and how far in advance to book them. Caregivers who cannot attend appointments with their loved ones might help them make arrangements.
Skipping medical appointments is an unnecessary risk. By being aware of their community resources and health plan's services, including telehealth and transportation options, older adults can still attend their doctor’s visits and maintain their health.