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Evidence Summary

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eHealth interventions should be used more extensively to improve palliative care patients’, caregivers’ and health professionals’ access to needed information

Capurro D, Ganzinger M, Perez-Lu J, et al.  Effectiveness of ehealth interventions and information needs in palliative care: A systematic literature review Journal of Medical Internet Research. 2014;16(3):e72.

Review question

What is the effectiveness of eHealth interventions to support palliative care and what are the information needs of patients, their caregivers and health professionals in palliative care?

Background

As populations around the world grow older, chronic non-communicable conditions (e.g. cancer and cardiovascular disease) have emerged as the main causes of death.

These progressive conditions have created an increasing demand for palliative care services, and need for trained palliative care specialists.

There may be a high potential for eHealth tools and applications to improve palliative care.

How the review was done

Searches of several electronic databases for research conducted up to and including June 2012 were conducted, and studies were included if they assessed the effectiveness of eHealth interventions for patients in palliative care or those involved in their care (e.g. caregivers or healthcare professionals).

A total of 235 individual studies were identified from the searches, and the authors included 17 in the review.

Heidelberg University and Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile provided funding support for this review.

What the researchers found

While there is limited evidence of effectiveness, eHealth interventions may improve quality of care, communication and outcomes related to costs.

Most eHealth interventions that have been evaluated in palliative care are designed to digitalize or simplify standard processes (e.g. by computerizing documentation tasks), and as such there is untapped potential in the use of the internet (and social media) for purposes such as increasing patients’ and caregivers’ feelings of connectedness and empowerment, and for enhancing patient and caregiver knowledge.

Some studies suggest that patients, caregivers and health professionals feel the need for more information about pain management.

Conclusion

eHealth interventions, and in particular web-based social media platforms, should be used more extensively to improve patients’ and caregivers’ feelings of connectedness and empowerment, and to provide access to the information related to palliative care that patients, caregivers and health professionals feel is needed (such as pain management).

This summary is based on a review that was determined to be of medium methodological quality based on an assessment using the AMSTAR tool.




Glossary

Vascular
The body's network of blood vessels. It includes the arteries, veins, and capillaries that carry blood to and from the heart.

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DISCLAIMER These summaries are provided for informational purposes only. They are not a substitute for advice from your own health care professional. The summaries may be reproduced for not-for-profit educational purposes only. Any other uses must be approved by the McMaster Optimal Aging Portal (info@mcmasteroptimalaging.org).

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