eHealth for addressing balance disorders in the elderly: Systematic review

Andréa G. Martins Gaspar, Luís Velez Lapão

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


Background: The population is aging on a global scale, triggering vulnerability for chronic multimorbidity, balance disorders, and falls. Falls with injuries are the main cause of accidental death in the elderly population, representing a relevant public health problem. Balance disorder is a major risk factor for falling and represents one of the most frequent reasons for health care demand. The use of information and communication technologies to support distance healthcare (eHealth) represents an opportunity to improve the access and quality of health care services for the elderly. In recent years, several studies have addressed the potential of eHealth devices to assess the balance and risk of falling of elderly people. Remote rehabilitation has also been explored. However, the clinical applicability of these digital solutions for elderly people with balance disorders remains to be studied. Objective: The aim of this review was to guide the clinical applicability of eHealth devices in providing the screening, assessment, and treatment of elderly people with balance disorders, but without neurological disease. Methods: A systematic review was performed in accordance with the PRISMA (Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analysis) statement. Data were obtained through searching the PubMed, Google Scholar, Embase, and SciELO databases. Only randomized controlled trials (RCTs) or quasiexperimental studies (QESs) published between January 2015 and December 2019 were included. The quality of the evidence to respond to the research question was assessed using Joanna Briggs Institute (JBI) Critical Appraisal for RCTs and the JBI Critical Appraisal Checklist for QESs. RCTs were assessed using the Cochrane risk of bias tool. We provide a narrative synthesis of the main outcomes from the included studies. Results: Among 1030 unduplicated articles retrieved, 21 articles were included in this review. Twelve studies explored different technology devices to obtain data about balance and risk of falling. Nine studies focused on different types of balance exercise training. A wide range of clinical tests, functional scales, classifications of faller participants, sensor-based tasks, intervention protocols, and follow-up times were used. Only one study described the clinical conditions of the participants. Instrumental tests of the inner ear were neither used as the gold-standard test nor performed in pre and postrehabilitation assessments. Conclusions: eHealth has potential for providing additional health care to elderly people with balance disorder and risk of falling. In the included literature, the heterogeneity of populations under study, methodologies, eHealth devices, and time of follow-up did not allow for clear comparison to guide proper clinical applicability. This suggests that more rigorous studies are needed.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere22215
Pages (from-to)1-20
Number of pages20
JournalJournal Of Medical Internet Research
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 28 Apr 2021


  • Balance disorders
  • EHealth
  • Elderly
  • Falls
  • Telemedicine


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