Action at a Distance: Geriatric Research during a Pandemic

J Am Geriatr Soc. 2020 May;68(5):922-925. doi: 10.1111/jgs.16443. Epub 2020 Apr 3.

Abstract

Background: "Action at a distance" may be the new norm for clinical researchers in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic that may require social distancing for the next 18 months. We must minimize face-to-face contact with vulnerable populations. But we must also persist, adapt, and help our older patients and study participants during the pandemic.

Methods: Clinical researchers have an obligation to help, and we can. Recommendations for clinical researchers working with older adults during the COVID-19 pandemic are discussed.

Results: Implement technology now: Minimize face-to-face contact with participants by utilizing digital tools, such as shifting to electronic informed consent and digital HIPAA-compliant tools such as e-mailed surveys or telehealth assessments. Assess the psychological and social impact of COVID-19: How are participants coping? What health or social behaviors have changed? How are they keeping up with current events? What are they doing to stay connected to their families, friends, and communities? Are their healthcare needs being met? Current studies should be adapted immediately to these ends. Mobilize research platforms for patient needs: Leverage our relationships with participants and rapidly deploy novel clinical engagement techniques such as digital tools to intervene remotely and reduce the negative effects of social isolation on our participants. Equip research staff with tangible resources, and provide timely population-specific health information to support patients and healthcare providers.

Conclusions: We have an opportunity to make an impact on our older adult patients now as this pandemic continues to unfold. Above all, clinical researchers need to continue working, to help as many people as possible through the crisis. J Am Geriatr Soc 68:922-925, 2020.

Keywords: clinical research; mobile health; social isolation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Biomedical Research*
  • Coronavirus Infections / epidemiology*
  • Coronavirus Infections / prevention & control
  • Geriatrics*
  • Humans
  • Pandemics* / prevention & control
  • Pneumonia, Viral / epidemiology*
  • Pneumonia, Viral / prevention & control
  • Social Isolation
  • Telemedicine

Supplementary concepts

  • COVID-19