Nearly 47.5 million people are suffering from dementia and every year there are approximately 7.7 million new cases. Elderly individuals with dementia are often times taken care of in nursing homes, where antipsychotic medications are frequently used to control changes in behavior such as agitation and paranoia. Past studies have shown that the medications given are mainly atypical, and come with varying adverse effects on patients’ health.
The lack of geriatric psychiatrists available, as well as the lack of access residents of nursing homes often have to medical facilities and specialists, contributes to the increasing use of medications that may be harmful to a patient’s overall health. This disconnect between patients and medical specialists is something that telemedicine can help resolve. Bridging the gap between geriatric specialists and nursing home residents by connecting them via telemedicine consults could ultimately lead to a decrease in the use of antipsychotic medications to manage changes in behavior for patients with dementia.
A recent Massachusetts study done by researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Hebrew Senior Life was conducted to determine the effectiveness of telemedicine consults on reducing use of antipsychotic medications in dementia patients in nursing homes. For the study, 11 nursing homes were selected to participate and were compared to residents of nursing homes that did not participate in the study. Participants of the study had two monthly video visits, which led to a 17 percent decrease in the use of antipsychotic medications. Overall, the study showed that telemedicine consults can improve care of patients with dementia.
As telemedicine continues to grow and evolve, more and more applications for the technology are being found. The ease of access that bridges the gaps between patients and specialists makes telemedicine an incredible option for a multitude of medical problems.