Effect of an eHealth intervention on older adults' quality of life and health-related outcomes: a randomized clinical trial

J Gen Intern Med. 2022 Feb;37(3):521-530. doi: 10.1007/s11606-021-06888-1. Epub 2021 Jun 7.


Background: By 2030, the number of US adults age ≥65 will exceed 70 million. Their quality of life has been declared a national priority by the US government.

Objective: Assess effects of an eHealth intervention for older adults on quality of life, independence, and related outcomes.

Design: Multi-site, 2-arm (1:1), non-blinded randomized clinical trial. Recruitment November 2013 to May 2015; data collection through November 2016.

Setting: Three Wisconsin communities (urban, suburban, and rural).

Participants: Purposive community-based sample, 390 adults age ≥65 with health challenges.

Exclusions: long-term care, inability to get out of bed/chair unassisted.

Intervention: Access (vs. no access) to interactive website (ElderTree) designed to improve quality of life, social connection, and independence.

Measures: Primary outcome: quality of life (PROMIS Global Health). Secondary: independence (Instrumental Activities of Daily Living); social support (MOS Social Support); depression (Patient Health Questionnaire-8); falls prevention (Falls Behavioral Scale). Moderation: healthcare use (Medical Services Utilization). Both groups completed all measures at baseline, 6, and 12 months.

Results: Three hundred ten participants (79%) completed the 12-month survey. There were no main effects of ElderTree over time. Moderation analyses indicated that among participants with high primary care use, ElderTree (vs. control) led to better trajectories for mental quality of life (OR=0.32, 95% CI 0.10-0.54, P=0.005), social support received (OR=0.17, 95% CI 0.05-0.29, P=0.007), social support provided (OR=0.29, 95% CI 0.13-0.45, P<0.001), and depression (OR= -0.20, 95% CI -0.39 to -0.01, P=0.034). Supplemental analyses suggested ElderTree may be more effective among people with multiple (vs. 0 or 1) chronic conditions.

Limitations: Once randomized, participants were not blind to the condition; self-reports may be subject to memory bias.

Conclusion: Interventions like ET may help improve quality of life and socio-emotional outcomes among older adults with more illness burden. Our next study focuses on this population.

Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov ; registration ID number: NCT02128789.

Keywords: depression; eHealth; older adults; quality of life; telemedicine.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living
  • Aged
  • Chronic Disease
  • Humans
  • Quality of Life*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Telemedicine*

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT02128789