Study: Research methods for home telemonitoring lack quality

Despite the promise of remote patient monitoring to cut healthcare costs and improve patient care, the research methods behind those claims are called into question in a study published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research this week.

The researchers looked at systematic reviews and meta-analyses of home telemonitoring of patients with chronic conditions between 1966 and 2012. They focused on 24 reviews, nine of which were meta-analyses. Most such studies over the years deal with remote monitoring for patients with chronic heart failure, but in recent years, monitoring has grown more prevalent for other conditions, as well, such as diabetes, hypertension and asthma.

"Despite the availability of methodological guidelines for conducting systematic reviews and meta-analyses, this knowledge has not been fully integrated into the study of home telemonitoring," the authors wrote.

They said researchers need to deal with issues such as duplicate data extraction, manually search highly relevant journals, include non-English literature and assess of the methodological quality of included studies--tasks too often not performed.

"Based on our assessment, we found that with the recent increase in reviews of [home telemonitoring] interventions, an important number of these articles appear to lack optimal scientific rigor due to intrinsic methodological issues," the researchers wrote. "Furthermore, their overall quality does not appear to have improved over time."

Juniper Research recently predicted that remote patient monitoring would cut healthcare costs up to $36 billion worldwide over the next five years.

A couple of studies out of the U.K., however, have challenged some of the oft-cited claims about telehealth. One found that for patients with chronic conditions, telehealth did not boost quality of life. Another found no evidence that telehealth is more cost-effective than standard care for chronic patients. Both studies were part of the British government's Whole System Demonstrator Evaluation of telehealth.

To learn more:
- read the research


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