How Will Older People Cope with Virtual Dr’s Appointments?

How Will Older People Cope with Virtual Dr’s Appointments?

This article is written by the experts over at Trusted Care, a website that specialises in directories for care homes based in London, Oxford and all over the UK.

In the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic, there has been an increase in healthcare services such as Doctor’s Surgeries offering virtual appointments.

According to Nuffield Trust, “Appointments in general practice carried out via telephone or video/online rose from 15% in February 2020 to 48% in April 2020, decreasing slightly to 36% in October 2020.”.

Whilst the move towards virtual appointments may not significantly affect the younger

tech-savvy generation, it can prove problematic for older people who may not have the means or technical knowledge required to have a virtual appointment. In fact, Age UK has issued a forewarning that “The rapid pace of this change is leaving significant numbers of older people behind.”. The Nuffield Trust has also warned that the change “reduces access to care for some patients and vulnerable groups, raising concerns over entrenching health inequalities.”.

The pandemic has acted as a catalyst for older people to embrace modern technology, enabling them to communicate with loved ones during the lockdowns when social distancing measures were in place. However, this does not mean that companies are right to believe that older people are suddenly ‘tech experts’ who feel confident enough to use technology for healthcare appointments.

In this article, we discuss the main challenges that older people face with Doctor’s Surgeries moving towards virtual appointments.

3 Main Challenges…

1. Lack Of Video-Enabled Devices

one of the main barriers faced by older people with the introduction of virtual Doctor’s appointments is that they are less likely to own a video-enabled device. According to studies carried out by Statistica, “69% of over 65-year-olds have a smartphone” and “52% of over

65-year-olds use a tablet to go online”. This highlights that there’s still a sizable proportion of the older population that does not have the means to have a virtual Doctors appointment.

2. Limited Technological Knowledge

Younger generations have grown up in a digital world making it easier for them to adapt to theconstant developments in technology. A study by Nuffield Trust found that “Particular groups of patients who are more likely to be in relatively good health (younger, white, highly educated and living in affluent areas) are, in comparison to other patients, more likely to successfully navigate online access to care.”

Older people have had to learn how to use smart devices and the internet at a later stage in their lives meaning that accessing online care doesn’t come as second nature to them.

Another report by Age UK states that a staggering “79% of the individuals they surveyed over the age of 75 saw a lack of IT knowledge as a key barrier to using technology”, emphasising the need for more resources to be put into supporting older people with strengthening their technological skills.

5 Ways to Make the Most of Your Doctor's Appointment – Cleveland Clinic

Nuffield Health has recommended that NHS England and integrated care systems, “Ensure that very vulnerable patients, who may need access to several public services, have support to use multiple digital services, including digital access to general practice.” Providing the recommendations are acted upon, hopefully, more support on how to use technology to access care will be provided to our older generation.

3. Limited Access To Reliable, High-Speed Internet

A study carried out by found that “80% of the over-65-year-old population in the UK have internet access”. This means that 2.3 million over 65-year-olds in the UK do not have internet access and therefore, they don’t have the means to have a virtual Doctor’s appointment.

Age UK’s report ‘Digital inclusion and older people – how have things changed in a Covid-19 world?’ states that contrary to belief, “Just under a quarter of over 75’s in England have increased their internet usage since the start of the pandemic”.

This signals that the remaining proportion of participants were either Internet users before the pandemic, or have returned to their usual technological habits now that things have gone back to some kind of ‘normal’.

Nuffield Trust has recommended that practices and general practice staff “Offer different forms of online, telephone and in-person access and triage to ensure that all patients – with varying ability to engage with remote consulting – can access services.” to help accommodate people who have limited or no access to reliable internet.

So, why are companies moving towards virtual appointments?

One survey by Nuffield Trust found that an overwhelming “88% of GPs felt that greater use of remote care should be retained in the longer-term.” following the Covid-19 pandemic. This suggests that we will likely see the uprise in virtual Doctor appointments continue. We have done some research to find out why companies are favouring virtual appointments over

face-to-face appointments:

  • To free up space and capacity in acute hospitals
  • They are safer and reduce the risk of infection transmission in NHS settings
  • They provide a convenient way for the public to access healthcare without requiring significant time off work or away from existing
  • Highly effective in enabling Doctors to see patients in an efficient and timely manner


In summary, more support is needed for vulnerable groups including people over 65 years old if an increasing number of Doctors Surgeries introduce or increase the proportion of virtual appointments. NHS England has stated that “GP triage can act as a barrier for many at-risk groups. Systems, therefore, need to be sensitive enough to pick up on this and to offer alternatives”. It is essential that there is good access to care for all individuals including our older generation, who in general have more health complications and are in greater need of healthcare support

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