Objective: To systematically review randomised controlled trials (RCTs) of computer-generated medication reminders or feedback directed to healthcare providers or patients.
Data sources: Extensive computerised and manual literature searches identified 76 English-language reports of RCTs reported before 1 January 2002. Searches were conducted between June 1998 and April 2002.
Study selection: 26 papers making 29 comparisons (two papers reported on multiple interventions) of computer-supported medication management to a control group.
Data extraction: The quality of the RCTs was systematically assessed and scored independently by two reviewers. Rates of compliance with (potential) reminders for the control and intervention groups were extracted.
Data synthesis: Heterogeneity of studies prevented a meta-analysis. Where possible, rates were calculated using the intention-to-treat principle. The comparisons were grouped into five areas. Reminders to providers in outpatient settings: six of 12 comparisons demonstrated positive effects (relative rates [RRs: intervention rates/control rates], 1.0 to 42.0). Provider feedback in outpatient settings: five of seven comparisons showed improved clinician behaviour (RRs, 1.0 to 2.5). Combined reminders and feedback in outpatient settings: the single comparison found no improvement. Reminders to providers in inpatient settings: three of five comparisons showed improvements (RRs, 1.0 to 2.1). Patient-directed reminders: two of four comparisons showed improvements in patient compliance.
Conclusion: Reminders are more effective than feedback in modifying physician behaviour related to medication management. Patient-directed reminders can improve medication adherence.