October 8, 2010

Telemedicine Improves Geriatric Depression

(Ivanhoe Newswire) -- People of all ages suffer from major depressive disorder.  It's a condition that plagues the young, the old, and everyone in-between.  However, depression among elderly homebound individuals has skyrocketed in the past few years, and little has been done to help these individuals get their feet back on the ground.

"Using telemedicine in home care to provide disease management for geriatric depression is timely for several reasons," which Thomas Sheeran, Ph.D., M.E., clinical psychologist in the department of psychiatry at Rhode Island Hospital, was quoted as saying.  "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.  Finally, work by the Cornell Homecare Research Partnership and others have shown that community health nurses - why typically are the telehealth disease managers in home care - can identify and successfully provide this service for their elderly home care patients."

Sheeran, who is also an assistant professor at The Weill Cornell Medical College School of Brown University, reported that through the pilot study, the overall feasibility and patient satisfaction ratings were exceptionally high.  His research revealed that the elderly participants were satisfied or very satisfied with the Depression TeleCare Protocol, and additionally became comfortable using the telehealth equipment.  The participants, more importantly, felt it improved their care and said that they would be willing to use it again.

"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," according to Sheeran.  "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."
Sheeran concluded that, "While these findings need to be replicated in a more rigorously controlled randomized trial, we believe these results offer great encouragement for reaching this population who can experience a better quality of life from this program."

SOURCE: The 29th Annual Meeting and Exposition of the National Association for Home Care and Hospice. October 8, 2010