Background: Home telemonitoring figures among the various solutions that could help attenuate some of the problems associated with aging populations, rates of chronic illness, and shortages of health professionals.
Objective: The primary aim of this study was to further our understanding of the clinical effects associated with home telemonitoring programs in the context of chronic diseases.
Methods: We conducted a systematic review which covered studies published between January 1966 and December 2008. MEDLINE, The Cochrane Library, and the INAHTA (International Network of Agencies for Health Technology Assessment) database were consulted. Our inclusion criteria consisted of: (1) English language publications in peer-reviewed journals or conference proceedings and (2) studies involving patients with diabetes, asthma, heart failure, or hypertension, and presenting results on the clinical effects of home telemonitoring.
Results: In all, 62 empirical studies were analyzed. The results from studies involving patients with diabetes indicated a trend toward patients with home telemonitoring achieving better glycemic control. In most trials in which patients with asthma were enrolled, results showed significant improvements in patients' peak expiratory flows, significant reductions in the symptoms associated with this illness, and improvements in perceived quality of life. Virtually all studies involving patients with hypertension demonstrated the ability of home telemonitoring to reduce systolic and/or diastolic blood pressure. Lastly, due to the equivocal nature of current findings of home telemonitoring involving patients with heart failure, larger trials are still needed to confirm the clinical effects of this technology for these patients.
Conclusions: Although home telemonitoring appears to be a promising approach to patient management, designers of future studies should consider ways to make this technology more effective as well as controlling possible mediating variables.