Dilek ASLAN is a professor of public health working at Hacettepe University Medical Faculty (HUMF), Department of Public Health (Ankara, Turkey). She graduated from HUMF in 1994. She completed her a four-year public health specialty training program and became a public health specialist in 2000. She also has MSc degree in Community Nutrition and Food Sciences Program. She completed 10 months’ fellowship program funded by USA-National Institute of Health, Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities Program (Fogarty International Program) in 2003. She was appointed an assistant professor in 2004, an associate professor in 2005 and a full professor in 2010 at Hacettepe University. Aging populations and public health interventions for healthy aging are among her academic interests. She is currently the General Secretary of Turkish Geriatrics Society.
How should telepreventive medicine services for the aged people be organized in COVID-19 days?
Dilek Aslan, Hacettepe University, Turkey
Novel Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) accelerated using digital technology in all aspects of life including health related issues. Telehealth, telemedicine, telepreventive medicine are some of the terminologies given in this field according to the scope and the function. Telehealth provides all kinds of health care including clinic and non-clinic services at a distance. Telemedicine is basically used in clinic-based services.
Telepreventive medicine refers to the implementation of the digital based services and telecommunications to preventive medicine practices. The aim of the telepreventive medicine services is to improve preventive medicine and public health practices. These services somehow may be life saver in different types of crises like COVID-19 pandemic. They are thought to be helpful for the disadvantaged groups like old ages. In this paper, the aim is to explain the need to improve telepreventive medicine services for the aged people and to propose the main requirements to build a holistic model to be used globally.
Current telepreventive medicine approach and practices focus on variety of preventive applications including health promotion strategies and aim to prevent the diseases by using digital technology.
However, access to such services equally can be problematic in old age due to several obstacles. Inequalities, difficulty in accessing to all types of healthcare services, ageism, poverty, loneliness, abuse, maltreatment, etc. are common issues which the global aged community are experiencing, and COVID-19 made the situation more complicated.
First, the specific situations of the old age like the high frequency of the non-communicable diseases, decrease in the functional capacity, etc. complicate the situation. Second, there may be cumulative influences of the social determinants of health like poverty, social isolation, communication problems, etc. and life has the potential to be more catastrophic for elderly. All obstacles should be eliminated to provide a healthy life for aged people without leaving no one behind. In this regard, telepreventive medicine practices can be used especially for improving health behaviors in aged communities. Need to the respond to the old communities’ health information seeking behaviors can be provided by using telepreventive medicine services. Thus, it is impossible to build such services without eliminating inequalities in accessing digital based services, health illiteracy in old age, poverty, lack of qualified human resources in digital health sector. Additionally, more evidence-based studies are needed to demonstrate its use in different aged populations as old age is not a homogeneous group.
If constructed properly, telepreventive medicine is thought to be helpful to open a door to access to all aged people eliminating the distance barrier and appropriate models can be used almost in all parts of the world. While organizing the telepreventive medicine services, it should always be kept in mind that the golden standard is the face-to-face communication of the patient-physician relationship. So, such services are recommended to be used as supportive applications to maintain health and wellbeing.