Background: The effectiveness of telemedicine for the management of chronic diseases is unclear. This study examined the effectiveness of telemedicine in relieving asthma symptoms.
Materials and methods: A systematic review of the Medline, Cochrane, EMBASE, and Google Scholar databases was conducted until December 31, 2013 using the following key words: "asthma," "telemedicine," "telehealth," "e-health," "mobile health," "Internet," "telecommunication," "telemanagement," "remote," and "short message service." Inclusion criteria were randomized controlled trial, a diagnosis of asthma, the majority of the patients were ≥18 years of age, and intervention involved any format of telemedicine. A meta-analysis of eligible studies was conducted with the primary outcome being change of asthma symptoms.
Results: Of 813 articles identified, 11 were included in the qualitative synthesis, and 6 were included in the meta-analysis. Among the 11 studies, there were 1,460 patients in the intervention groups and 1,349 in the control groups, and the total numbers of participants ranged from 12 to 481 in the intervention groups and from 12 to 487 in the control groups. The mean age of patients ranged in the intervention groups from 34.4 to 54.6 years and in the control groups from 30.7 to 56.4 years. The treatment duration ranged from 0.5 to 12 months. The meta-analysis of six eligible studies revealed no significant difference in asthma symptom score change between the telemedicine and control groups (pooled Hedges's g=0.34, 95% confidence interval=-0.05 to 0.74, Z=1.69, p=0.090).
Conclusions: Telemedicine interventions do not appear to improve asthma function scores, but other benefits may be present.
Keywords: asthma; exacerbation; telehealth; telemedicine.