In a new research, researchers have shown digital clinical communication had no impact on families or caregivers and health professionals in comparison with standard care.   

The communication relationship between parents of children or young people with health conditions and health professionals is an important part of treatment. However, it is unclear how far the use of digital clinical communication tools may affect this relationship.

The objective of the study was to describe, assess the feasibility of, and explore the impact of digital clinical communication between families or caregivers and health professionals. The researchers searched the literature using 5 electronic databases.

The team considered all types of study design published in the English language from January 2009 to August 2015. The population of interest included families and caregivers of children and young people aged less than 26 years with any type of health condition.

The intervention was any technology permitting 2-way communication. The study included 31 articles. The main designs were randomized controlled trials (RCTs; n=10), cross-sectional studies (n=9), pre- and postintervention uncontrolled (pre/post) studies (n=7), and qualitative interview studies (n=2); 6 had mixed-methods designs.

In the majority of cases, we considered the quality rating to be fair. Many different types of health condition were represented. Breadths of digital communication tools were included: video conferencing or video consultation (n=14), and Web messaging or emails (n=12).

Healthcare professionals were mainly therapists or cognitive behavioural therapists (n=10), physicians (n=8), and nurses (n=6). Studies were very heterogeneous in terms of outcomes. Interventions were mainly evaluated using satisfaction or acceptance, or outcomes relating to feasibility. Clinical outcomes were rarely used.

The RCTs showed that digital clinical communication had no impact in comparison with standard care. Uncontrolled pre/post studies showed good rates of satisfaction or acceptance. Some economic studies suggested that digital clinical communication may save costs.

The analysis showed an emerging body of literature on the use of digital clinical communication to improve families' and caregivers' involvement in the health management of children or young people. Further research with appropriate study designs and longer-term outcome measures should be encouraged.