Patient education is a crucial element within health care. It is a known predictor for increased engagement in shared decision making, improved medication and treatment adherence, higher levels of satisfaction, and even better treatment outcomes. Unfortunately, often patients only remember a very limited amount of medical information. An important reason is that most patients are simply not capable of processing large amounts of new medical information in a short time. Apps for smartphones and tablets have the potential to actively educate patients by providing them with timely information through the use of push notifications.
A literary study and randomized controlled trials published between January 2015 and November 2019 were eligible for inclusion. A total of 21 randomized controlled trials were conducted with 4106 participants.
Compared to usual care, overall effectiveness of the interventions was demonstrated in 69% of the outcomes. Effectiveness increased to 82% when the intervention had a duration shorter than one month and increased to 78% when the intervention provided at least one push notification per week. The interventions showed the highest effects on satisfaction with information, adherence to treatment instructions and to medication usage, clinical outcomes, and knowledge.
This review demonstrates that educating patients with timely medical information through their smartphones or tablets improves their levels of knowledge, medication or treatment adherence, satisfaction, and clinical outcomes, as well as having a positive effect on health care economics. These effects are most pronounced in interventions with a short duration (ie, less than a month) and with a high frequency of messages to patients (ie, once per week or more). With the knowledge that patient education is a predictor for improved outcomes and the fact that patients have obvious difficulties processing large amounts of new medical information, we suggest incorporating the delivery of timely information through smartphone and tablet apps within current medical practices.
The research is published in het JMIR mHealth magazine. Read the abstract and full article here