Vidyya Medical News Service
Volume 6 Issue 292 Published - 14:00 UTC 08:00 EST 18-Oct-2004 Next Update - 14:00 UTC 08:00 EST 19-Oct-2004
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Interactive programs for chronically ill people may be detrimental

Interactive Health Communication Applications (IHCAs) are computer based interactive programs for patients that combine health information with at least one mode of support social support, decision support or behavioural change support.

IHCAs provide people with chronic diseases the opportunity to become better informed about their diseases and the various treatment options available. Researchers recently undertook a systematic review of 28 trials involving over 4000 patients, to assess the benefits and harms of IHCAs.

Although it is generally believed that to be well-informed and have established support systems results in better outcomes, the results of this review indicate otherwise. Users of IHCAs were found to have better knowledge and social support, however no effect was observed on self-efficacy or behavioural outcomes.

More importantly, IHCAs had a negative effect on clinical outcomes for chronically ill people. The cause of this negative outcome is unclear, and further research is needed to determine possible modifications to improve the effectiveness of IHCAs.

Dr Elizabeth Murray, lead researcher says: "This an unexpected and provocative finding, especially in view of the large sums being spent on web-based health programs. Do IHCAs reassure users, hence reducing motivation for changes needed to improve health? Or are fully informed, enabled patients choosing different priorities, such as short term well-being over long term clinical outcomes?"

Review title: Interactive Health Communication Applications for people with chronic disease

The Cochrane Library Newsletter, Issue 4, 2004

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