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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Effectiveness of IT-based diabetes management interventions: a review of the literature

Beth M Costa1, Kristine J Fitzgerald1, Kay M Jones2 and Trisha Dunning AM13*

Author Affiliations

1 School of Nursing, Faculty of Health, Medicine, Nursing and Behavioural Sciences, Deakin University, Waterfront Campus, Geelong, 3220, Victoria, Australia

2 Department of General Practice, Monash University, Notting Hill, 3168, Victoria, Australia

3 Barwon Health, Kitchener House, PO Box 281, The Geelong Hospital, Geelong Victoria, 3220, Australia

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BMC Family Practice 2009, 10:72  doi:10.1186/1471-2296-10-72

Published: 17 November 2009

Abstract

Background

Information technology (IT) is increasingly being used in general practice to manage health care including type 2 diabetes. However, there is conflicting evidence about whether IT improves diabetes outcomes. This review of the literature about IT-based diabetes management interventions explores whether methodological issues such as sample characteristics, outcome measures, and mechanisms causing change in the outcome measures could explain some of the inconsistent findings evident in IT-based diabetes management studies.

Methods

Databases were searched using terms related to IT and diabetes management. Articles eligible for review evaluated an IT-based diabetes management intervention in general practice and were published between 1999 and 2009 inclusive in English. Studies that did not include outcome measures were excluded.

Results

Four hundred and twenty-five articles were identified, sixteen met the inclusion criteria: eleven GP focussed and five patient focused interventions were evaluated. Nine were RCTs, five non-randomised control trials, and two single-sample before and after designs. Important sample characteristics such as diabetes type, familiarity with IT, and baseline diabetes knowledge were not addressed in any of the studies reviewed. All studies used HbA1c as a primary outcome measure, and nine reported a significant improvement in mean HbA1c over the study period; only two studies reported the HbA1c assay method. Five studies measured diabetes medications and two measured psychological outcomes. Patient lifestyle variables were not included in any of the studies reviewed. IT was the intervention method considered to effect changes in the outcome measures. Only two studies mentioned alternative possible causal mechanisms.

Conclusion

Several limitations could affect the outcomes of IT-based diabetes management interventions to an unknown degree. These limitations make it difficult to attribute changes solely to such interventions.