Best Practice Guidance
Human Interaction with Technology in Dementia

themes: Implementation

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.
Technology for meaningful activities

Consider cost-effectiveness research into eHealth interventions

Guidance

Methodological sound effectiveness research into eHealth interventions for community dwelling persons with dementia is growing. To determine the added value of such interventions, it is important to look at their effects and costs. This gives a balanced picture and helps policy makers to make the right decisions when deploying eHealth interventions.

Explanation and example

Positive effects were found of exergaming compared to usual activities in day care centres. The provision of exergaming brought additional costs related to the equipment (purchase and maintenance) and staff involvement. Compared to non-technology based interventions, especially equipment costs can be a cost driver.

In the exergaming study, the participating organisations received a list of potential funders for the equipment to be used, and various funding organisations (charitable organizations) were willing to pay for it. In some cases this helped to participate in the study.

Taking into account the intervention costs may help day care centres to balance the positive effects of using the eHealth interventions (for people with dementia and their carers) against the long-term costs (to be covered by own funding or external funding). This will promote a well-informed implementation and securing of the eHealth intervention.

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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.

Ensure multiple employees are responsible for exergaming to ensure successful implementation of this technology

Guidance

Exergaming in day care centres can be implemented more successfully by making more than one employee responsible for it.

Explanation and examples

We have asked day-care centres for people living with dementia, which factors were important for successful implementation of Exergaming. Sometimes, only one person in the day-care centre was responsible for the Exergaming activity. If this person was not at the day-care centre, because he/she was ill or left for another job, the Exergaming activity often was forgotten.

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Ensure the support from the management of care organisations to promote successful implementation of exergaming

Guidance

Employees of care organisations should be supported by the management in their responsibility for Exergaming as a new activity. Managers should be actively engaged in Exergaming and be kept updated on any developments with regard to Exergaming (i.e. positive experiences of people with dementia practising Exergaming, any potential issues with the activity).

Explanation and examples

We have asked day-care centres for people living with dementia, which factors played a role in successful implementation of Exergaming. The staff of these day-care centres sometimes did not feel supported by the management in supervising and implementing the Exergaming activity. This made it less likely for them to implement it.

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Start making eHealth financing and business plans at the start of the development phase

Guidance

To ensure that the eHealth interventions for caregivers of people with dementia will continue to be available, supported, updated and compatible with changing software and hardware requirements, financing and business plans should be developed from the beginning.

Explanation and examples

A mixed-methods study followed up on the 12 publications included in Boots et al.’s (2014) widely cited systematic review on eHealth interventions for informal caregivers of people with dementia, to explore implementation into practice. Publicly available online information, implementation readiness (ImpRess checklist scores), and survey responses were assessed. The majority of survey respondents identified commercialization and having a business plan as facilitators to implementation. There was little evidence for any of the 12 applications being put into practice.

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Implementation of technology in dementia care: facilitators & barriers

Guidance

Ensure new technology is compatible with a range of relevant platforms to promote implementation.

Explanation and examples

Findings from the feasibility trial showed that people with dementia use a range of devices with various software versions (e.g. smartphones, touch-screen tablets, and personal computers) to access apps and other services. New technology which aims to be compatible with these different devices, can lead to increased uptake and may contribute to successful implementation.

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Health care technologies

Ensure management engagement when implementing complex health technologies

Guidance

Consider active engagement of nursing home management as a crucial component when designing complex health care technologies for nursing homes. Their commitment to the project’s success will help to ensure staff have sufficient time and other resources to participate in the new programme.

Explanation

A lack of time is one of the most important barriers for implementing advance care planning (ACP) in nursing homes. Therefore, it is crucial staff gets enough time to engage and work with the intervention in order to properly implement it. When staff is given time to spend on intervention-related tasks, instead of having to spend this time on other tasks, this will increase their ownership of the intervention.

Example

In the ACP+ programme all nursing home managers signed a contract stating they would allow their staff to spend time on the intervention. Training sessions were held during working hours and staff got paid while attending these sessions.

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Target multiple levels when implementing complex health technology in a specific context

Guidance

When implementing Advance care planning (ACP) as a complex health technology in a complex setting such as a nursing home, multiple levels should be targeted, including management, nurses, care staff, volunteers, visiting or residing physicians, families, cleaning or other staff.

Explanation

The implementation process will have a higher chance of succeeding when multiple levels are targeted within the nursing home. Colleagues in the nursing home can help each other to implement the intervention, creating a positive and open environment to learn and develop new skills and deliver the best care possible. In this way the intervention can produce a shift in working culture and attitudes and deliver sustainable change.

Example

The ACP+ intervention targeted not only the (head) nurses, but also other care staff and cleaning, kitchen and maintenance staff. Also, engagement of the management was required for participation in the trial. A few highly motivated people were extensively trained in conducting ACP conversations and this knowledge was past onwards to colleagues via internal training sessions. In this way the whole nursing home was involved in the intervention, leading to greater participation of all nursing home employees.

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Take into account the level of cognitive impairment when implementing technologies

Guidance

The level of cognitive impairment must be taken into account in the design of technology because people with severe dementia have different needs vs. mild dementia.

Explanation and Example

People with severe cognitive impairment will have more problems learning to use different and new devices. They need more explanation and a longer learning time, due to limited cognitive capacities. For example, the clinical experience with Gradior shows that people with moderate and severe dementia should have the therapist as a permanent guide. According to this, Gradior possibly would have to adopt new systems and tools to become effective in people with moderate and severe dementia, and in turn, allow a level of autonomy of the person with dementia who uses this technology. Indeed, the help of a therapist in the first steps of applying a technological-based therapy is strategic for implementing and accepting the approach.

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Nursing home managers should ensure the appropriate conditions for implementation of EPR systems

Guidance

Issues such as access to the EPR system, appropriate training and system development and support should all be considered by nursing homes before and during the implementation of EPR systems.

Explanation and Examples

Access or non-access to various parts of the EPR system should be discussed and put in place. For instance, management should consider whether auxiliary staff should be allowed to access medical information, such as dementia diagnosis, and whether this would consequently entail training in the field of dementia. Appropriate training in the EPR system according to individual staff needs is also required, as some staff may be more experienced in the use of technology than others. Training ‘on the job’ was found to be preferred by many over classroom-based teaching. Finally, software developers should consider working alongside nursing homes during the design of EPR systems in order to ensure software is appropriate for their needs. Developers should continue to be involved in improving the EPR following implementation, as part of an iterative cycle.

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Telehealth should be recognised as a valuable adjunct to traditional occupational therapy service provision, requiring dedicated financial, legislative and informative resources

Guidance

Occupational therapists must adopt telehealth practices as a supplement to in-person occupational therapy to avoid service disruption in times of crisis. This requires legislation and public promotion, clear strategies and guidelines for health service managers, and finally, training and continuous support for end-users.

Explanation and Examples

A global online needs-assessment survey among occupational therapists was undertaken to determine the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on telehealth practices in occupational therapy worldwide and to get insight into facilitators and barriers in utilising this form of service delivery. The survey was circulated in the occupational therapy community by the World Federation of Occupational Therapists (WFOT) between April and July 2020, collecting responses to closed-ended questions, in addition to free-text comments. 2750 individual responses from 100 countries were received. The results revealed a significant increase in the use of telehealth strategies during COVID-19, with many reported benefits. Occupational therapists who used telehealth were more likely to score higher feelings of safety and positive work morale and perceived their employer’s expectations to be reasonable. Restricted access to technology, limitations of remote practice, funding issues and slow pace of change were identified as barriers for some respondents to utilising telehealth. Facilitators included availability of supportive policy, guidelines and strategies, in addition to education and training.

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Social Health Domain 3: Technology to promote social participation

Consider different contextual factors to implement social robots in dementia care

Guidance

Technology developers and researchers should be aware of the different contextual factors that can affect the translation of research on social robots to real-world use.

Explanation and examples

Barriers and facilitators affecting the implementation of social robots can occur at different levels. For example, they relate to the social robots’ features, or relate to organisational factors or external policies. A scoping review was conducted to understand the barriers and facilitators to the implementation of social robots for older adults and people living with dementia. 53 studies were included in this review. Most existing studies have disproportionately focused on understanding barriers and facilitators relating to the social robots, such as their ease of use. However, there is significantly less research that has been conducted to understand organisational factors or wider contextual factors that can affect their implementation in real-world practice. Future research should pay more attention to investigating the contextual factors, using an implementation framework, to identify barriers and facilitators on different levels to guide the further implementation of social robots.

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