Background: In patients with chronic disease, many health care professionals are involved during treatment and follow-up. This leads to fragmentation that in turn may lead to suboptimal care. Shared care is a means to improve the integration of care delivered by various providers, specifically primary care physicians (PCPs) and specialty care professionals, for patients with chronic disease. The use of information technology (IT) in this field seems promising. Objective: Our aim was to systematically review the literature regarding the effectiveness of IT-supported shared care interventions in chronic disease in terms of provider or professional, process, health or clinical and financial outcomes. Additionally, our aim was to provide an inventory of the IT applications' characteristics that support such interventions. Methods: PubMed, Scopus, and EMBASE were searched from 2006 to 2015 to identify relevant studies using search terms related to shared care, chronic disease, and IT. Eligible studies were in the English language, and the randomized controlled trials (RCTs), controlled trials, or single group pre-post studies used reported on the effects of IT-supported shared care in patients with chronic disease and cancer. The interventions had to involve providers from both primary and specialty health care. Intervention and IT characteristics and effectiveness-in terms of provider or professional (proximal), process (intermediate), health or clinical and financial (distal) outcomes-were extracted. Risk of bias of (cluster) RCTs was assessed using the Cochrane tool. Results: The initial search yielded 4167 results. Thirteen publications were used, including 11 (cluster) RCTs, a controlled trial, and a pre-post feasibility study. Four main categories of IT applications were identified: (1) electronic decision support tools, (2) electronic platform with a call-center, (3) electronic health records, and (4) electronic communication applications. Positive effects were found for decision support-based interventions on financial and health outcomes, such as physical activity. Electronic health record use improved PCP visits and reduced rehospitalization. Electronic platform use resulted in fewer readmissions and better clinical outcomes-for example, in terms of body mass index (BMI) and dyspnea. The use of electronic communication applications using text-based information transfer between professionals had a positive effect on the number of PCPs contacting hospitals, PCPs' satisfaction, and confidence. Conclusions: IT-supported shared care can improve proximal outcomes, such as confidence and satisfaction of PCPs, especially in using electronic communication applications. Positive effects on intermediate and distal outcomes were also reported but were mixed. Surprisingly, few studies were found that substantiated these anticipated benefits. Studies showed a large heterogeneity in the included populations, outcome measures, and IT applications used. Therefore, a firm conclusion cannot be drawn. As IT applications are developed and implemented rapidly, evidence is needed to test the specific added value of IT in shared care interventions. This is expected to require innovative research methods.
- Chronic disease
- Health information systems
- Integrated healthcare systems