Multimedia programs for educating patients about medications

Consumers need detailed information about their medications to enable them to use their medications safely and effectively. For information to be useful it needs to be presented in a format that can be easily understood by consumers. There is evidence that methods such as spoken communication between the health provider and consumer and written materials are not meeting consumers’ needs. Multimedia education programs use more than one format to provide information. This could include using written words, diagrams and pictures with the use of audio, animation or video. They can be provided using different technologies, such as DVD and CD-ROM, or can be accessed over the Internet.

This review presents the evidence from 24 studies, involving 8112 participants, of multimedia education programs about medications.

We found that multimedia education programs about medications are superior to no education or education provided as part of usual clinical care in improving patient knowledge. There was wide variability in the results from the six studies that compared multimedia education to usual care or no education. However, all but one of the six studies favoured multimedia education. We also found that multimedia education is superior to usual care or no education in improving skill levels. The review also suggested that multimedia was at least as effective as other forms of education, including written education or brief education from a health provider. However, these findings were based on a small number of studies, many of which were of low quality. Multimedia education did not improve compliance with medications (i.e. the degree to which a patient correctly follows advice about his or her medication) compared with usual care or no education. We could not determine the effect of multimedia education on other outcomes, such as patient satisfaction, self-efficacy (confidence in their ability to perform health-related tasks) and health outcomes.

The review findings therefore suggests that multimedia education programs about medications could be used alongside usual care provided by health providers. There is not enough evidence to recommend it as a replacement for written education or education by a health professional. Multimedia education could be used instead of detailed education given by a health provider when it is not possible or practical for health professionals to provide this service.

This review found that there were differences between the types of education provided to the control groups and what results were measured. This limited the ability to summarise results across studies, so most of the conclusions of this review were based on results from a small number of studies. More studies of multimedia educational programs are needed to make the results of this review more reliable.

Authors' conclusions: 

This review provides evidence that multimedia education about medications is more effective than usual care (non-standardised education provided by health professionals as part of usual clinical care) or no education, in improving both knowledge and skill acquisition. It also suggests that multimedia education is at least equivalent to other forms of education, including written education and education provided by a health professional. However, this finding is based on often low quality evidence from a small number of trials. Multimedia education about medications could therefore be considered as an adjunct to usual care but there is inadequate evidence to recommend it as a replacement for written education or education by a health professional. Multimedia education may be considered as an alternative to education provided by a health professional, particularly in settings where provision of detailed education by a health professional is not feasible. More studies evaluating multimedia educational interventions are required in order to increase confidence in the estimate of effect of the intervention.

Conclusions regarding the effect of multimedia education were limited by the lack of information provided by study authors about the educational interventions, and variability in their content and quality. Studies testing educational interventions should provide detailed information about the interventions and comparators. Research is required to establish a framework that is specific for the evaluation of the quality of multimedia educational programs. Conclusions were also limited by the heterogeneity in the outcomes reported and the instruments used to measure them. Research is required to identify a core set of outcomes which should be measured when evaluating patient educational interventions. Future research should use consistent, reliable and validated outcome measures so that comparisons can be made between studies.

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Background: 

Health consumers increasingly want access to accurate, evidence-based information about their medications. Currently, education about medications (that is, information that is designed to achieve health or illness related learning) is provided predominantly via spoken communication between the health provider and consumer, sometimes supplemented with written materials. There is evidence, however, that current educational methods are not meeting consumer needs. Multimedia educational programs offer many potential advantages over traditional forms of education delivery.

Objectives: 

To assess the effects of multimedia patient education interventions about prescribed and over-the-counter medications in people of all ages, including children and carers.

Search strategy: 

We searched the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL, The Cochrane Library 2011, Issue 6), MEDLINE (1950 to June 2011), EMBASE (1974 to June 2011), CINAHL (1982 to June 2011), PsycINFO (1967 to June 2011), ERIC (1966 to June 2011), ProQuest Dissertation & Theses Database (to June 2011) and reference lists of articles.

Selection criteria: 

Randomised controlled trials (RCTs) and quasi-RCTs of multimedia-based patient education about prescribed or over-the-counter medications in people of all ages, including children and carers, if the intervention had been targeted for their use.

Data collection and analysis: 

Two review authors independently extracted data and assessed the risk of bias of included studies. Where possible, we contacted study authors to obtain missing information.

Main results: 

We identified 24 studies that enrolled a total of 8112 participants. However, there was significant heterogeneity in the comparators used and the outcomes measured, which limited the ability to pool data. Many of the studies did not report sufficient information in their methods to allow judgment of their risk of bias. From the information that was reported, three of the studies had a high risk of selection bias and one was at high risk of bias due to lack of blinding of the outcome assessors. None of the included studies reported the minimum clinically important difference for the outcomes that were measured. We have therefore reported results from the studies but have been unable to interpret whether differences were of clinical importance.

The main findings of the review are as follows.

Knowledge: There is low quality evidence that multimedia education was more effective than usual care (non-standardised education provided as part of usual clinical care) or no education (standardised mean difference (SMD) 1.04, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.49 to1.58, six studies with 817 participants). There was considerable statistical heterogeneity (I2 = 89%), however, all but one of the studies favoured the multimedia group. There is moderate quality evidence that multimedia education was not more effective at improving knowledge than control multimedia interventions (i.e. multimedia programs that do not provide information about the medication) (mean difference (MD) of knowledge scores 2.78%, 95% CI -1.48 to 7.0, two studies with 568 participants). There is moderate quality evidence that multimedia education was more effective when added to a co-intervention (written information or brief standardised instructions provided by a health professional) compared with the co-intervention alone (MD of knowledge scores 24.59%, 95% CI 22.34 to 26.83, two studies with 381 participants).

Skill acquisition: There is moderate quality evidence that multimedia education was more effective than usual care or no education (MD of inhaler technique score 18.32%, 95% CI 11.92 to 24.73, two studies with 94 participants) and written education (risk ratio (RR) of improved inhaler technique 2.14, 95% CI 1.33 to 3.44, two studies with 164 participants). There is very low quality evidence that multimedia education was equally effective as education by a health professional (MD of inhaler technique score -1.01%, 95% CI -15.75 to 13.72, three studies with 130 participants).

Compliance with medications: There is moderate quality evidence that there was no difference between multimedia education and usual care or no education (RR of complying 1.02, 95% CI 0.96 to 1.08, two studies with 4552 participants).

We could not determine the effect of multimedia education on other outcomes, including patient satisfaction, self-efficacy and health outcomes, due to an inadequate number of studies from which to draw conclusions.

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