Research has investigated whether communication technologies (e.g. mobile telephony, forums, email) can be used to transfer digital information between healthcare professionals and young people who live with diabetes. The systematic review evaluates the effectiveness and impact of these technologies on communication.
Nine electronic databases were searched. Technologies were described and a narrative synthesis of all studies was undertaken.
Of 20,925 publications identified, 19 met the inclusion criteria, with 18 technologies assessed. Five categories of communication technologies were identified: video-and tele-conferencing (n = 2); mobile telephony (n = 3); telephone support (n = 3); novel electronic communication devices for transferring clinical information (n = 10); and web-based discussion boards (n = 1). Ten studies showed a positive improvement in HbA1c following the intervention with four studies reporting detrimental increases in HbA1c levels. In fifteen studies communication technologies increased the frequency of contact between patient and healthcare professional. Findings were inconsistent of an association between improvements in HbA1c and increased contact. Limited evidence was available concerning behavioural and care coordination outcomes, although improvement in quality of life, patient-caregiver interaction, self-care and metabolic transmission were reported for some communication technologies.
The breadth of study design and types of technologies reported make the magnitude of benefit and their effects on health difficult to determine. While communication technologies may increase the frequency of contact between patient and health care professional, it remains unclear whether this results in improved outcomes and is often the basis of the intervention itself. Further research is needed to explore the effectiveness and cost effectiveness of increasing the use of communication technologies between young people and healthcare professionals.