Consumer Informatics Improve HealthA new report confirms that electronic tools and online technology can help improve health care processes that relate to behavioral compliance.

Adherence to medication and improved clinical outcomes — such as smoking cessation — were discovered upon a review of 146 published research studies of patient-focused electronic tools.

Researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health performed the analysis of consumer health informatics for the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). The study is among the first to explore the potential value of consumer health informatics.

Consumer health informatics applications are defined as any electronic tool, technology or electronic application designed to interact directly with consumers, with or without the presence of a health care professional, and that provides or uses individualized (personal) information to help a patient better manage his or her health or health care.

Personalized informatics tools can include applications such as online health calculators, interactive computer programs to aid decision making, text and email messages. They can be applied to a variety of clinical conditions, including cancer, smoking, diabetes mellitus, physical activity and mental health disorders.

“Consumer electronics are changing the way we shop, bank, communicate and even elect our presidents. We wanted to know if there was any evidence that these types of tools could impact health,” said Michael Christopher Gibbons, MD, MPH, lead author and assistant professor in the Bloomberg School’s Department of Health, Behavior and Society.

“In the future these tools may help make health care much more patient-centered and available when needed and not just available when the office is open. They may also help us improve health disparities by increasing patient access to health-improving treatments and interventions among the poor and uninsured.”

Overall the analysis found no evidence that consumer health informatics harmed consumers. In addition, there was insufficient evidence to determine if consumer health informatics provided any economic or cost benefit.

Source: Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health