Background: Educating patients with asthma about the pathophysiology and treatment of their disease is recommended. In recent years, several computer programs have been developed to provide this education. These programs take advantage of the population's increasing skill with computers and the growth of the Internet as a source of health care information.
Objective: To evaluate the effectiveness of published interactive computerized asthma patient education programs (CAPEPs) that have been subjected to randomized controlled trials (RCTs).
Data sources: The PubMed, ERIC, CINAHL, Psychinfo, and Clinicaltrials.gov databases were searched (through October 3, 2005) using the following terms: asthma, patient, education, interactive, and computer.
Study selection: RCTs in English that evaluated the effect of an interactive CAPEP on the following primary end points were included in the study: hospitalizations, acute care visits, rescue inhaler use, or lung function. Secondary end points included asthma knowledge and symptoms. Trials were screened by title and abstract before full text review. Two independent investigators used a standardized data extraction form to identify the articles chosen for full review.
Results: Nine of 406 citations met inclusion criteria. Four CAPEPs were computer games, 7 only studied children, and 4 focused on urban populations. One study each showed that the intervention reduced the number of hospitalizations, acute care visits, or rescue inhaler use. Two studies reported lung function improvements. Four studies showed improvement in asthma knowledge, and 5 studies reported improvements in symptoms.
Conclusions: Although interactive CAPEPs may improve patient asthma knowledge and symptoms, their effect on objective clinical outcomes is less consistent.