Mobile safety alarms based on gps technology in the care of older adults: Systematic review of evidence based on a general evidence framework for digital health technologies

Maria Ehn*, Matt X. Richardson, Sara Landerdahl Stridsberg, Ken Redekop, Sarah Wamala-Andersson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articleAcademicpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
11 Downloads (Pure)


Background: GPS alarms aim to support users in independent activities. Previous systematic reviews have reported a lack of clear evidence of the effectiveness of GPS alarms for the health and welfare of users and their families and for social care provision. As GPS devices are currently being implemented in social care, it is important to investigate whether the evidence of their clinical effectiveness remains insufficient. Standardized evidence frameworks have been developed to ensure that new technologies are clinically effective and offer economic value. The frameworks for analyzing existing evidence of the clinical effectiveness of GPS devices can be used to identify the risks associated with their implementation and demonstrate key aspects of successful piloting or implementation. Objective: The principal aim of this study is to provide an up-to-date systematic review of evidence based on existing studies of the effects of GPS alarms on health, welfare, and social provision in the care of older adults compared with non-GPS-based standard care. In addition, the study findings were assessed by using the evidence standards framework for digital health technologies (DHTs) established by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) in the United Kingdom. Methods: This review was conducted according to the PRISMA (Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses) guidelines. Primary studies published in peer-reviewed journals and gray literature from January 2005 to August 2020 were identified through searches in 13 databases and several sources of gray literature. Included studies had individuals (aged ≥50 years) who were receiving social care for older adults or for persons with dementia; used GPS devices as an intervention; were performed in Canada, the United States, European Union, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, South Korea, or Japan; and addressed quantitative outcomes related to health, welfare, and social care. The study findings were analyzed by using the NICE framework requirements for active monitoring DHTs. Results: Of the screened records, 1.6% (16/986) were included. Following the standards of the NICE framework, practice evidence was identified for the tier 1 categories Relevance to current pathways in health/social care system and Acceptability with users, and minimum evidence was identified for the tier 1 category Credibility with health, social care professionals. However, several evidence categories for tiers 1 and 2 could not be assessed, and no clear evidence demonstrating effectiveness could be identified. Thus, the evidence required for using DHTs to track patient location according to the NICE framework was insufficient. Conclusions: Evidence of the beneficial effects of GPS alarms on the health and welfare of older adults and social care provision remains insufficient. This review illustrated the application of the NICE framework in analyses of evidence, demonstrated successful piloting and acceptability with users of GPS devices, and identified implications for future research.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere27267
JournalJournal of Medical Internet Research
Issue number10
Early online date19 Jan 2021
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research is funded by Mälardalen University and the Sörmlandskontraktet regional funding partnership.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Journal of Medical Internet Research. All rights reserved.


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