SAN DIEGO — While the field of dementia care is burgeoning with new technologies, there is little guidance on the most effective devices on the market, according to a session at the American Psychiatric Association Annual Meeting. Researchers provided direction to mental health professionals navigating the rapidly developing field.
“Unlike in social media where there’s a goliath like Facebook or Instagram, if I asked you to think of a piece of technology that stands out in the field of mental health care, it would probably be very difficult to do so. That’s not because there are no products out there. It’s because there are so many of them,” Bruce Bassi, MD, MS, a third-year psychiatry resident at the University of Florida, Gainesville, said during a session here. “As a society, we tend to award innovation and these companies are incentivized to make more products to make money but they’re not really encouraged to validate them.”
Research, particularly randomized controlled trials, on technology in geriatric care is significantly lacking, according to Bassi.
Further, the market has become extremely saturated, as app listings and websites are rarely deleted, which may be overwhelming to consumers and clinicians.
To evaluate an app’s efficacy and usability, Bassi recommended the APA’s App Evaluation Model, located on the organization’s website.
The model focuses on four main areas: safety/privacy; evidence of effectiveness; ease of use; and interoperability.
There is no minimum or maximum number of levels required for an app to be considered useful. It is possible that an app that meets low levels may be preferred by a clinician and patient and that’s ok, according to the APA.
In addition to usability, clinicians should remain mindful of the harms that come with technology, according to Stephen Welch, MD, also of the University of Florida.
Welch outlined a number of harms of dementia care technology, including:
- offering incorrect or misleading information;
- offering therapeutic interventions or services that are actually ineffective, which may lead to false conclusions that a patient is treatment refractory;
- insecure housing of personal health data and, in some cases, selling data; and more.
However, as with any new technology, there is still a lot to learn about apps for dementia care, Welch said.
When choosing an app for dementia care, clinicians must be cognizant of patient needs.
A review identified factors contributing to acceptance of technology in a sample of community-dwelling older adults.
Findings indicated older adults were concerned about high cost, privacy and usability and expected increased safety and utility as benefits of technology.
The sample reported help from family or spouse as an alternative to technology and were likely to be influenced by family, friends and professional caregivers on the use of technology.
Bassi and Welch called for more research on apps for dementia care and in the meantime, suggested clinicians refer to the APA’s evaluation model when choosing an app for therapeutic use. – by Amanda Oldt
Bassi B, et al. Digi...what? An overview of technology advances in dementia care. Presented at: American Psychiatric Association Annual Meeting; May 20-24, 2017; San Diego.
Disclosure: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.