Telemedicine and Dementia Care: A Systematic Review of Barriers and Facilitators

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Objectives: An increasing reliance on telemedicine for older adults with cognitive impairment requires a better understanding of the barriers and facilitators for this unique patient population. Design: The study team queried PubMed, Embase, the Cochrane Library, PsycINFO, CINAHL, Scopus, and on May 1, 2020, for studies in English published from January 2010 to May 2020. Setting and Participants: We conducted a systematic review of articles investigating the use of telemedicine among older adults with Alzheimer's disease and related dementia (ADRD) or mild cognitive impairment (MCI) that focused on the patient and care partner perspectives. Methods: Telemedicine encounter purpose, technological requirements, and findings regarding sensory needs were extracted. The Cochrane Collaboration's Risk of Bias Tool was applied for quality assessment. Results: The search yielded 3551 abstracts, from which 90 articles were reviewed and 17 were included. The purpose of telemedicine encounters included routine care, cognitive assessment, and telerehabilitation. All studies reported successful implementation of telemedicine, supported by patient and care partner satisfaction, similar results on cognitive assessment and diagnosis compared to in-person visits, and improvement in outcome measures following rehabilitation. Sixteen studies relied on staff and care partners to navigate technologies. Six studies reported participants reporting difficulty hearing the provider during the telemedicine visits. Five studies excluded participants with visual or hearing impairment because of the potential difficulty of using telemedicine technology. No studies reported technological adaptations to account for sensory impairment. Conclusions and Implications: Telemedicine is well received among patients and care partners, but successful delivery incorporates support staff and the care partners to navigate technologies. The exclusion of older adults with sensory impairment, especially given that it is highly prevalent, in developing telemedicine systems may further exacerbate access to care in this population. Adapting technologies for sensory needs is critical to the advancement of accessible dementia care through telemedicine.

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