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Original article

Vol. 151 No. 1718 (2021)

Implementation of a telemedicine geriatric co-evaluation in the emergency department: a prospective pilot study

Cite this as:
Swiss Med Wkly. 2021;151:w20500



Complex drug management is a common challenge in the treatment of geriatric patients. Pandemic scenarios, such as the current one (COVID-19), call for a reduction of face-to-face meetings, especially for elderly patients. Therefore, the aim of the present study was to compare the innovative concept of applying telemedical assessment to geriatric patients in the emergency department (ED) with ED standard treatment. The therapeutic recommendations regarding drug management from the two assessments were compared. A special focus was the use of potentially inadequate drugs (PIMs) for geriatric patients according to the “Fit for the Aged” (FORTA) classification.


50 patients (40% female) aged ≥70 years and assessed with an Identification of Seniors at Risk Score (ISAR score) of ≥2 admitted to the ED were prospectively enrolled in this study between November 2017 and February 2018. In addition to the standard treatment in the ED, co-evaluation via video transmission was independently carried out by a board-certified geriatrician. Drug recommendations by ED physicians (A) and the geriatrician (B) were compared.


There was a significantly higher frequency of recommendations regarding changes to preexisting medication (p <0.001, n = 50) via geriatric telemedicine in comparison with standard ED treatment. The geriatrician intervened significantly more often than the ED physicians: discontinuation of a drug, p <0.001; start of a new drug, p = 0.004; dose change of a drug, p = 0.001; n = 50). Based on the additional therapy recommendations of the geriatrician, the amount of medication taken by the patient was significantly reduced compared with standard ED treatment (ED assessment t(49) = 0.622 vs geriatrician’s assessment t(49) = 4.165; p <0.001; n = 50). Additionally, the number of PIMs was significantly reduced compared with standard medical treatment (p <0.001). The geriatrician changed 53.9% of the drugs (35/65) whereas the ED physicians changed only 12.3% (8/65). Recommendations for immediate drug therapy, however, were made more frequently by ED physicians (p <0.039, n = 50).


An early assessment of elderly emergency patients by a geriatrician had a significant impact on the number of drug interventions in the ED. The number of PIMs could be significantly reduced. Whether this also has a positive effect on the further inpatient course needs to be investigated in further prospective studies.

The study was retrospectively registered at (NCT04148027).


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