Telehealth as a Cost-effective Healthcare Modality for Treating Alzheimer’s Disease Patients

With the increasing number of aging individuals in the US who need screening tests for cognitive disease, innovative interventions like telehealth have been proposed.  Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is a neurodegenerative disease that has increasingly been drawing wide attention because of its significant social and economic burden to patients and their families. AD results in impairments in memory, attention, orientation, judgment, executive function and language.  Early detection has been sought after to help improve patients’ quality of life and prolong life expectancies.

The number of individuals in the US with some degree of Alzheimer’s is estimated to be around 5.3 million in 2015. Healthcare costs for the diagnosis, treatment and monitoring of Alzheimer’s patients have been skyrocketing, requiring numerous visits to the specialist physician, and prolonged hospital stays. This year alone, the cost of care for Alzheimer’s patients in the US is estimated to reach $226 billion, half of which will have been spent by Medicare dollars.

Telehealth offers a compelling solution.

Telehealth is an umbrella term for an array of telecommunication-ready products that provide medical information and services, ranging from the most sophisticated video-conferencing equipment to simple smart phone apps. It aims to increase access to health care while cutting expense, and improve over-all patient compliance and health outcomes.

The use of telehealth in patient treatment and monitoring in out-of-hospital settings has drawn significant attention from researchers and medical practitioners, in the hopes of decreasing medical expenditure. It is no secret that telehealth can be effective as a health care modality. Medicare recognizes this and the American Medical Association endorses it. Various centers in the US and Europe have published several papers on how effective it is for distance assessment and cognitive intervention with patients living with Alzheimer’s.

The key is to recognize telehealth as a cost-effective, efficient and early detection strategy for assessing cognitive dementia. It enables the physician and the patient to interact at locations convenient to both parties, reducing inconvenience of travel (and the costs incurred by it), expensive hospitalizations, loss of income for caregivers, and over-all savings in health care expenditure. All this, while enabling empowerment and improved quality of life as the elderly are allowed to live and age with dignity in their own homes.

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