Researchers to test telemedicine in treating delirium in elderly

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A team of researchers is aiming to use telemedicine to provide patients experiencing delirium with personalized care programs. A study from the Indiana University Center for Aging Research and the Regenstrief Institute tested four different telemedicine techniques in elderly patients who experienced delirium in intensive care units (ICUs).

Annually, more than two million patients in the ICU experience delirium predisposing them to dementia. With no current treatment available, researchers are telemedicine to provide patients with personalized care plans after they return home. Lead by Babar Khan, MD, the team has begun building a trail using cognitive training and physical exercise through telemedicine as a new form of treatment.

The trial will enroll 300 ICU survivors over 65 into a 12-week study. Participants will be facilitator-led, one-on-one or in small groups of cognitive and physical exercise program. The study will evaluate results by putting participants into four groups: 1. one hour three times a week of exercise with an online coach and matching cognitive training, 2. one hour three times a week of exercise with an online coach and online counseling about brain health, 3. one hour three times a week of cognitive training with an online coach with materials on exercise, and 4. online counseling about brain health with exercise informational materials.

All participants will be provided with computers, internet access and training on how to use the system's videoconference programs. Researchers will analyze results at the end of 12 weeks of the telemedicine program for cognitive and physical improvements and again after another 12 weeks to see if the improvements remained after the additional three months.

“We have learned from our work with ICU survivors in the critical care recovery center that, unfortunately, not everyone can come to the clinic or get to their physical therapy appointment or have a cognitive or physical therapist come to their home,” said Khan. “Utilizing computers and the internet to provide cognitive and physical training to a large group of people in one-on-one or small group sessions in their homes, we hope to see a decrease in dementia, anxiety and depressive symptoms, and enhanced physical functioning and quality of life.”