Background: The use of telemedicine for the care of mental health problems has developed significantly over the last decade thanks to the emergence of a number of stable telepsychiatry programs in many countries. Parallel to this development, this care modality has also targeted specific populations with higher difficulty in gaining access to mental health services such as the elderly. Telepsychogeriatrics is expected to have an increasing role in providing care to geographically isolated rural communities, with a particular focus on long-term care facilities, in light of the high prevalence of psychiatric disorders in these centers and the lack of available specialized care.
Methods: A thorough search of the literature was conducted using Medline, Web of Science, and PsychINFO databases in order to gather available evidence on the applicability of telepsychiatry, specifically the use of videoconferencing for remote consultation, in the elderly population with mental disorders. A succinct description of the selected studies is given along with a general reflection on the state-of-the-art in the field of psychogeriatric clinical practice and research.
Results: Research on the use of telemedicine in this age group has taken into account their special characteristics, and has focused on demonstrating its applicability, the acceptance and satisfaction of elderly users and their healthcare providers, the possibility of carrying out cognitive and diagnostic assessments, and the efficiency of these programs.
Conclusions: Despite limited experience, telepsychogeriatrics appears to be a viable option, well accepted by patients, including those having dementia. More systematized studies are needed in this new field based on larger sample sizes, including comparison with traditional consultations and assessment of the clinical outcomes.