More high quality, ecologically valid, controlled studies must be planned, funded and executed in order to properly evaluate the effectiveness of technologies designed to be used by people with dementia and to improve social participation and self-management.
Explanation and examples
A systematic review found that in the whole world only nine controlled evaluation studies with technologies designed for people with dementia have been carried out in ecologically valid settings, to assess effectiveness in improving social participation and self-management. Controlled studies are the most effective way of conducting unbiased evaluations, from which causal inference can be drawn. Policy-makers should be demanding this level of evidence as a condition of investment in such technologies. So far, studies have been conducted with VR-based technologies, other wearable technologies, and software applications. However, only a single study was found to be of good quality. Other technologies for people with dementia have not yet been the subject of a single ecologically-valid, controlled study with these outcomes (this includes, for example, social robots). In order to conduct high quality studies, researchers must ensure that studies are adequately statistically powered based on a sufficiently large sample; include active technology-based control interventions, so that is controlled for attention; and conduct and report intention-to-treat analyses, taking into account data of all participant to the study, including dropouts, and not only those who completed the intervention. Funding bodies must recognize the need to fund such studies accordingly. Clinicians, healthcare providers, policymakers and users of technology should expect and demand that such high-quality evidence is available to support decision-making.
ThemesEcological validity Effectiveness Self-management Social participation Technology
Target groupsClinicians Commissioners Government Researchers Technology developers
Type of evidence
Systematic review of controlled effectiveness studies, of technologies designed for use by people with dementia to improve social health.
Neal, D., van den Berg, F., Planting, C., Ettema, T., Dijkstra, K., Finnema, E., Dröes, R.M. (2021). Can Use of Digital Technologies by People with Dementia Improve Self-Management and Social Participation? A Systematic Review of Effect Studies. Journal of Clinical Medicine, 10(4):604. https://doi.org/10.3390/jcm10040604