Telemedicine is increasingly becoming a reality in medical care for the elderly. We performed a systematic literature review on telemedicine healthcare concepts for older patients. We included controlled studies in an ambulant setting that analyzed telemedicine interventions involving patients aged ≥60 years. 1585 articles matched the specified search criteria, thereof, 68 could be included in the review. Applications address an array of mostly frequent diseases, e.g. cardiovascular disease (N=37) or diabetes (N=18). The majority of patients is still living at home and is able to handle the telemedicine devices by themselves. In 59 of 68 articles (87%), the intervention can be categorized as monitoring. The largest proportion of telemedicine interventions consisted of measurements of vital signs combined with personal interaction between healthcare provider and patient (N=24), and concepts with only personal interaction (telephone or videoconferencing, N=14). The studies show predominantly positive results with a clear trend towards better results for "behavioral" endpoints, e.g. adherence to medication or diet, and self-efficacy compared to results for medical outcomes (e.g. blood pressure, or mortality), quality of life, and economic outcomes (e.g. costs or hospitalization). However, in 26 of 68 included studies, patients with characteristic limitations for older patients (e.g. cognitive and visual impairment, communication barriers, hearing problems) were excluded. A considerable number of projects use rather sophisticated technology (e.g. videoconferencing), limiting ready translation into routine care. Future research should focus on how to adapt systems to the individual needs and resources of elderly patients within the specific frameworks of the respective national healthcare systems.
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