Telemedicine may now improve geriatric depression

Washington, Oct 4(ANI): Researchers have developed a telemedicine-based depression care protocol in home health care in order to curb the high rate of depression among elderly homebound individuals.

"Using telemedicine in home care to provide disease management for geriatric depression is timely for several reasons," said Thomas Sheeran of the Rhode Island Hospital.

"The home care industry is already using telemedicine to provide chronic disease management for many medical illnesses, such as heart disease.

"However, guideline-based depression care often is not included in these monitoring programs. Also, research suggests that telemedicine can be successfully used to address mental health needs of the elderly in community settings," he said.

Sheeran added: "Finally, work by the Cornell Homecare Research Partnership and others has shown that community health nurses - who typically are the telehealth disease managers in home care- can identify and successfully provide this service for their elderly home care patients."

Through the pilot study feasibility and patient satisfaction ratings were very high.

He noted that a majority of the elderly participants reported they were satisfied or very satisfied with the protocol that they quickly became comfortable using the telehealth equipment and there were few technical problems.

More importantly, they felt it improved their care and that they would be willing to use it again.

Sheeran said: "At the start of the study, 19 of these patients met full diagnostic criteria for Major Depression, with a mean depression severity score in the 'Markedly Severe' range.

"We were very pleased to find that at follow-up, the average depression severity scores were in the 'Mild' range, indicating significant improvement in depression severity through the use of this protocol. While these findings need to be replicated in a more rigorously controlled randomised trial, we believe these results offer great encouragement for reaching this population who can experience a better quality of life from this program."

The findings of the pilot study were presented at the 29th Annual Meeting and Exposition of the National Association for Home Care and Hospice. (ANI)

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