Best Practice Guidance
Human Interaction with Technology in Dementia

target groups: Commissioners

Evaluating the effectiveness of specific contemporary technology

The rapid growth of the technological landscape and related new services have the potential to improve the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of health and social services and facilitate social participation and engagement in activities. But which technology is effective and how is this evaluated best? This section provides recommendations to evaluate the effectiveness of technology in daily life, meaningful activities and healthcare services as well as of technologies aimed to promote the Social Health of people with dementia. Examples of useful technologies in some of these areas are provided.
Social Health Domain 2: Manage ones own life and promote independence

Technologies designed to improve social health in people with dementia should be evaluated in high quality studies to effectively support decision-making

Guidance

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.

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Implementation of technology in dementia care: facilitators & barriers

Successful implementation of technology in dementia care depends not merely on its effectiveness but also on other facilitating or impeding factors related to e.g. the personal living environment (privacy, autonomy and obtrusiveness); the outside world (stigma and human contact); design (personalisability, affordability and safety), and ethics on these subjects.  This section provides recommendations on the implementation of technology in everyday life, for meaningful activities, healthcare technology and technology promoting Social Health.
Technology in everyday life

Consider involving occupational therapists to enable people with dementia to use everyday technology

Guidance

Consider involving occupational therapists in providing interventions that enable people with dementia to use the everyday information and communication technologies they have.

Explanation and Examples

A standardized questionnaire mapped how many Everyday Information & Communication Technologies (EICT) (maximum 31) were relevant to 35 people living with dementia and 34 people with no known cognitive impairment in Sweden. A relevant EICT is one that is being used, or has been used in the past, or is planned for use in future. The median amount of relevant EICTs was shown to be 11 in the group without dementia, and 7 (significantly less) in the group with dementia. Each person also rated their ability to use (maximum 90) relevant Everyday Technologies (ETs) on a 5 step rating scale. This data was analysed (in a Rasch model) to produce a score for each person’s ability to use ET. When we compared ability to use ET with amount of relevant ETs in each group, the more EICTs a person counts as relevant, the higher was their ability to use ET. This pattern was only found in the group of people with dementia, and not the group without. The amount of relevant EICTs is affected by a person’s ability to use them. So some people may need support to identify the usefulness and possibility to use an EICT function that they have access to.

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