Smartphone Services for Seniors and Their Mental Health

Researchers at Dartmouth College tested the first-ever app developed to help physicians remotely manage the care of seniors and their mental health. The study, published in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, aimed to embrace prevention and illness management in a new age of technological advancements. As lead investigator Karen L. Fortuna, PhD, of the Dartmouth Centers for Health and Aging and the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth said, “It is important for physicians and patients to be actively involved in designing and developing new technologies supporting these approaches.”

The Advantages of Technology for Seniors and Their Mental Health

These technologies have many advantages when compared to a traditional psychosocial intervention. The interventions are individually tailored and offer just-in-time delivery for a population who may not have ample access to treatment. Inventive physicians, researchers, and engineers hypothesized that when disseminated, such an application would facilitate higher levels of patient engagement and participation in preventative care with high population impact.

The research team first tested the app’s usability and efficacy on a population of 10 participants with a mean age of 55.3 years over a period of three months. Researchers initially worked with participants to ensure that the application was feasible for use with a high-risk group with limited health and technology literacy. As results demonstrated that even patients with limited technical abilities were able to use the app successfully, a strong potential for wide-scale use was suggested.

The app then carries patients through 10 psycho-educational sessions covering topics including stress vulnerability and illness, medication adherence and strategies, and substance and medication abuse. The app was developed to detect problems and facilitate immediate telehealth, combining medical and psychiatric self-management in an attempt to keep individuals engaged in their own care.

Using Technology to Monitor Mental Illness Among Geriatric Populations

There are many benefits to monitoring mental illness in a wide-spread geriatric population. Most importantly, physicians may now intervene more immediately and more directly with high-risk patient populations, improving long-term care and outcomes. Immediate detection of medical adherence, medication abuse and other issues monitored by the app may help prevent illness, vulnerability, hospitalization and more.