Objective: The virtual delivery of patient education and other forms of telehealth have been proposed as alternatives to providing needed care for patients with chronic diseases. The purpose of this systematic review was to compare the efficacy of virtual education delivery on patient outcomes compared with usual care.
Methods: The review examined citations from 3 databases, MEDLINE, CINAHL, and EMBASE using the search words telehealth, chronic disease, patient education, and related concepts. From 2447 records published between 2006 and 2017, 16 high to moderate quality studies were selected for review. Eligible papers compared virtual education to usual care using designs allowing for assessment of causality.
Results: Telehealth modalities included the web, telephone, videoconference, and television delivered to patients with diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, irritable bowel syndrome and heart failure. In 11 of 16 studies, virtually delivered interventions significantly improved outcomes compared to control conditions. In the remaining 5 studies, virtual education showed comparable outcomes to the control conditions.
Conclusions: Findings demonstrated that virtual education delivered to patients with chronic diseases was comparable, or more effective, than usual care.
Research implications: Despite its benefits, there is potential for further research into the individual components which improve effectiveness of virtually delivered interventions.
Keywords: Systematic review; Telehealth; Telephone; Videconference; Virtual education; Web.
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