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Never Too Old for Tech: 96-Year-Old Uses Telemedicine During COVID-19

Mildred Martinez 96 year old penn medicine patient sitting in chair

On May 12, Mildred Martinez celebrated her 96th birthday in true quarantine style. “My son took me outside, and he had a parade of cars drive by,” she says.

That parade included 14 police cars, one fire truck, and 20 cars full of family and friends — all eager to honor the mother of three, grandmother of five, great-grandmother of seven, and great-great-grandmother of one’s momentous milestone.

But Martinez’s birthday isn’t the only thing that’s different in her life because of COVID-19. She also experienced her first Penn Medicine telemedicine appointment, also known as a virtual doctor’s visit.  “She’s very healthy. She's not on any kind of medication. Doctors are totally amazed by her because of her age and how she has nothing wrong with her, other than the normal wear and tear,” says her daughter Kathleen, 73, who lives with Martinez in New Jersey. “Because she was due for her normal primary care checkup, they called us and said we were going to do it virtually because of the virus.” 

Martinez’s First Telemedicine Appointment During the Pandemic

Martinez family social distancing Unexpectedly, Martinez’s medical care has come full circle during her more than nine decades of life. “Back then if I really needed him, my family doctor would come to the house,” she says. Now, her primary care doctor is again making house calls, thanks to Penn’s virtual BlueJeans platform. BlueJeans is available on computers and mobile devices.

“They gave me the link and the password. And when it was time for the appointment, we just dialed in, connected, and waited for him to come on,” says Kathleen.

Martinez didn’t have any hesitations about switching to telemedicine — she knows her doctor well, and she has Kathleen by her side.

“We used my iPad. It was like a FaceTime-type thing,” says Martinez. “I talked to him face to face the same way I do in his office. And when I go there, we can't stay that long. So we had a nice visit.”

“She was able to ask any questions that she wanted to, and Dr. Jeffrey Millstein asked her a lot of questions to make sure she was feeling OK and not having any problems,” adds Kathleen. “The only difference was he couldn't take her blood pressure and check her heart, but I do that every day.”

Looking Ahead to Martinez’s New Normal

Martinez is staying busy while practicing physical distancing: She sits and reads every day, has video chats with her grandchildren, and walks around her house. But she’s looking forward to a return to normalcy. 

“One of my granddaughters is getting married in October. I hope we can go to that,” she says.

As for virtual doctor’s visits, she’s OK if they’re here to stay. So is Kathleen. “I think it’s a whole lot better for the elderly because sometimes it's hard to get them out, especially when there’s bad weather. In the wintertime, it will be much easier for us because we would have had to put her in a chair and wheel her in because she can't walk that far.”

Telemedicine at Penn Medicine

More than 9,000 Penn providers hold more than 7,000 telemedicine visits each day. It has been a valuable tool for keeping patients and providers connected and safe during the pandemic. 

Health care providers offer telemedicine services for:

  • New patient appointments
  • Referrals
  • Follow-up visits 
  • Coronavirus screenings

“I think it's going to be the new normal after all of this,” says Kathleen. “And in some ways, it’s going to be better because people don't have to go through the anxiety of getting dressed, going out and driving, and sitting in the waiting room, especially if they're not feeling good.”

Learn more about how telemedicine will impact your care at Penn:

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