“Action at a distance” may be the new norm for geriatric research in the context of the COVID‐19 pandemic to minimise face‐to‐face contact with vulnerable populations.

The review published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society says that clinical researchers still have an obligation to  study older participants during the pandemic so they have to persist and adapt.

One way of doing this is by implementing technology to minimise face‐to‐face contact with participants by utilising digital tools, such as shifting to electronic informed consent, emailed surveys or telehealth assessments.

Clinical researchers have an important role to play

It will be important to assess the psychological and social impact of COVID‐19 to see how participants are coping and what health or social behaviors have changed. Key questions should include: How are they keeping up with current events; what are they doing to stay connected to their families, friends, and communities, and are their health care needs being met? Current studies should be adapted immediately to these ends.

The article also suggests that research platforms for patient needs be mobilised. Researchers can leverage their relationships with participants to rapidly deploy novel clinical engagement techniques such as digital tools to intervene remotely to reduce the negative effects of social isolation on participants.

The authors concluded: "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."