Study designs of evaluations included in the review
Randomised controlled trials (RCTs) of electronic communication between parties in separate locations assessing the effect of the intervention on the process or outcomes of patient care.
Specific interventions included in the review
Computerised communication, telephone follow-up care, telephone reminders, interactive telephone systems, telephone access and telephone screening.
Participants included in the review
Computerised communication: patients with diabetes, care givers of patients with Alzheimer's disease, college students and male patients with cardiac disease.
Telephone follow-up care: emergency department patients, patients requiring cardiac care, women due to undergo mammography, out-patients with osteoarthritis and junior high school students.
Telephone reminders: patients in a variety of situations receiving appointment reminders, patients receiving reminders about immunisation, patients requiring reminders about medication, diabetic patients and patients with osteoarthritis.
Interactive telephone systems: families of patients with Alzheimer's disease, problem drinkers, households with young children, and elderly patients.
Telephone access: terminally- or chronically-ill patients and parents of newborns.
Telephone screening: broad geographic patient population.
Outcomes assessed in the review
Computerised communication: outcomes included changes in haemoglobin levels, decision confidence, ambulatory visits, oxygen consumption and dietetic knowledge.
Telephone follow-up care: outcomes for emergency department patients included numbers of patients scheduling and attending appointments; outcomes for cardiac care patients included smoking cessation, emergency department visits, general activity and knowledge; outcomes for mammography use were changes in number of mammograms; outcomes for osteoarthritis were scores on the Arthritis Impact Measurement Scales (AIMS); outcomes for tobacco use prevention were changes in tobacco use.
Telephone reminders: outcomes included appointment-keeping rates, immunisation rates, medication compliance, diabetic foot problems and disability associated with arthritis.
Interactive telephone systems: outcomes included medication adherence, knowledge and immunisation visits, alcohol consumption and mental health.
Telephone access: outcomes included hospital use.
Telephone screening: information supplied.
How were decisions on the relevance of primary studies made?
Titles and/or abstracts were read and judged for relevance by two reviewers. For those considered eligible for inclusion, the full article was retrieved and assessed for relevance (the 3 inclusion criteria are given in the review) by the two reviewers, who discussed each article until consensus was reached.