The use of telemental health in geriatric patients may improve psychiatric clinical care, increase quality of life, and reduce healthcare costs, according to study results published in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry.

In this systematic review, researchers searched key databases for studies that included geriatric patients who were treated with telemedicine interventions for mental health disorders. After applying the search criteria, researchers found 76 articles that included 68 distinct research studies. The majority of studies involved cognitive screening or testing, and several others were related to the diagnosis and management of dementia.

With respect to telemedicine efficacy, numerous studies reported applicability and acceptance in various institutional or home-based settings. In addition, other studies showed potential for use in collaborative care models, cognitive assessment, and psychotherapy. In contrast, researchers found few studies that evaluated the cost-effectiveness of telemedicine interventions in older patients.

When considering reimbursement for telemedicine services, current coverage is largely restricted to elderly patients living in rural areas. Some studies predict that adoption of widespread coverage would extend possible benefits to other patient groups, such as those with mobility impairment.

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Investigators note that because of the difficulty of traveling, dementia-related behavioral disturbances, and cognitive impairment, individuals with dementia and their caregivers may need increased access to geriatric specialists.

“Telemedicine and more specifically geriatric telemental health holds much promise to increase access to high quality specialty care for older adults while reducing costs,” the researchers wrote.

Reference

Gentry MT, Lapid MI, Rummans TA. Geriatric telepsychiatry: systematic review and policy considerations [published online October 30, 2018]. Am J Geriatr Psychiatry. doi: 10.1016/j.jagp.2018.10.009.