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Technology may revolutionize the lives of older adults with psychiatric disorders, thanks to creative research ideas posed by Ipsit Vahia, MD, McLean’s new medical director for Geriatric Psychiatry Outpatient Services. Dr. Vahia is working closely with Dr. Brent Forester on a number of novel studies that explore the use of technology and smart devices to improve assessment of psychiatric symptoms, optimize medication management, and increase opportunities for healthy aging in place.
Dr. Vahia found in a pilot study that using certain iPad apps led to a noticeable reduction in restlessness and agitation among nearly all participants (people with severe dementia). He intends to build on this initial study by testing specific apps as non-pharmacologic options for managing some of the behavioral problems associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Dr. Vahia also plans to launch collaborative efforts with various partners to evaluate wearable and wireless devices for their efficacy in monitoring sleep, pain, medication response, and fall risk.
“New technology is allowing us to monitor patients in ways that were impossible just five years ago. Data from these sensors can give us a more detailed picture of our patients’ lives and this information, in conjunction with data from traditional sources, will result in much more efficient psychiatric care,” says Dr. Vahia.
Dr. Vahia wants to reframe the discussion about geriatric psychiatry. Rather than trying to “fix” the brain, his vision is to enable this population to age in place with more independence and less reliance on medication and hospitalization.