Connected health: a review of the literature
The presence of social support, and more recently, connection, has been linked to multiple health benefits and longevity measures and the lack of connection is associated with premature morbidity and mortality. Connected health is a growing industry, and we were interested in determining whether or not scholars in the field have established the ways in which technology could facilitate or promote connection between patients and healthcare providers. This integrative literature review sought to collect and analyze research studies addressing social support or connection in a sample of patients with diabetes to evaluate the social support or connection metrics in use, the type of technology deployed by researchers to achieve connection, and to assess the state of the science in this area. We hypothesized that being connected to someone who cares is good for your health. We believe this holds true even when connection is accomplished with mobile technologies. Thirty five studies were included in this review, 21 utilized technology to enhance patient-provider connection. The articles included in this review were from a total of more than nine countries and took place in hospital, physician office, and community settings. They represented people from childhood through to old age. Technologies evaluated include: telephone interventions, email, text messaging, interactive voice response (IVR), video blogs, apps, websites, and social media. There were multiple operational definitions of social support and self-management used as variables within the studies. Findings from this review suggest that being connected does matter to patients with diabetes, and being connected to family matters the most, even though the associations are complex and not always predictable. Furthermore, patients with diabetes will utilize a variety of technologies to connect with healthcare providers, team members, and even other people with the same disease. The use of technology with diabetes patients positively impacts a variety of health outcomes, such as HbA1c, weight, physical activity, healthy eating, cholesterol and frequency of glycemic monitoring.