Interactive computer technology, behavioral science, and family practice

J Fam Pract. 1999 Jun;48(6):464-70.


In this paper we discuss conceptual and practical uses for interactive computer applications (ICAs) for family practice, with an emphasis on implications for patient self-management, physician-patient relationships, primary care research, and health care systems quality improvement. We discuss recent behavioral science advances in patient self-management and the advantages and potential limitations of ICAs for medicine. We describe the benefits and risks of using ICAs for providing information, coping-skills training, and social support for patients and for improving the consistency and quality of care given by physicians. There are currently many effective ICAs, and they will play a central role in future health care. There is also the risk of inappropriate use of ICAs. We provide a summary of the empirical literature examining the use of ICAs to aid patients and providers in behavioral change and guidelines adherence efforts. We advise those people researching and applying ICAs in health care to be bold in what they attempt, but cautious in what they claim. Rigorous scientific evaluation and standardized reporting criteria can help quicken this advance, and there are important policy and ethical issues to consider. We conclude with a list of issues for family practices to consider when selecting and using ICAs.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Ambulatory Care Information Systems
  • Behavioral Sciences
  • Computer Communication Networks* / organization & administration
  • Computer-Assisted Instruction* / trends
  • Family Practice* / education
  • Family Practice* / organization & administration
  • Health Behavior
  • Humans
  • Patient Education as Topic / methods*
  • United States