Study: Tablet, app use does not improve patient knowledge of care

Supplying patients with tools such as tablets and patient portal apps does not have a great impact on their understanding of their care and treatment, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association.

Originally, the authors thought that the tablet and app "would result in greater knowledge of team members' names and roles, planned tests and procedures, medications and higher patient activation."

They handed out the tools to 100 patients at Chicago's Northwestern Memorial Hospital to be used for the duration of the patients' stay. The researchers then looked at patient use and satisfaction with the portal through questions specifically created for the study. The goal was to evaluate how such tools can help patients become more involved in and aware of care activity, from knowing physicians' names to procedures being ordered.

At the end of the study, the authors say they found that use of the app was high, with 57 percent using it more than once a day. Satisfaction with the tools was also high, with 76 percent saying they were easy to use and 71 percent saying they provided useful information.

A fifth of patients involved did not use the portal at all. Yet, among those who did, patients did gain greater knowledge of the names and roles of their hospital physicians. However, it did not have an impact on their knowledge of their own care or treatment.

"Additional steps are needed to engage hospitalized patients in learning about their plan of care, which may better prepare them for self-management after discharge," the authors conclude.

The study comes at a time when providers are piloting a bevy of mobile tools to see if and how they can improve care and patient engagement. 

Penn Medicine is using an app and a tablet to cut readmission rates for heart failure patients in its Penn Care at Home program; that effort has sliced congestive heart failure readmission rates by 53 percent, according to an announcement. 

Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York is also seeing success with its apps, with one developed for the treatment of inflammatory bowel disease and another that allows physicians in the Mount Sinai Doctors Faculty Practice to offer consultations using a secure digital connection via smartphones. 

However, research published by the Commonwealth Foundation found that while mobile devices providing patient-centered technology actively engage patients in care, evidence of effectiveness in improving health-related outcomes is limited. In addition, "providers have not been able to effectively leverage technology tools" to improve population health and care delivery.

For more information:
- read the study

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