Necessity is the mother of invention: web-based patient education in orthopaedics

  • T. Dekkers
  • M. Melles
  • B. Groeneveld
  • H. de Ridder


Patient education is a valuable part of care that enables patients to be informed, active participants in their own treatment. While traditionally conveyed by healthcare professionals during consultations, time limitations during these meetings mean that patients can no longer solely rely on healthcare professionals to learn about health and illness. Online distribution of patient education materials may form an easy-accessible, time-, and cost-effective alternative. The objective of this systematic review was to examine the effects of web-based patient education programs for orthopaedic patients and to compare its effectiveness to verbal and written patient education. Nine databases (including PUBMED and PsycINFO) were searched covering the period 1995-2016. English and Dutch studies were included if they delivered patient education via the Internet to the orthopaedic patient population of adult age, and assessed its effects in a controlled trial. A total of 10 trials reported in 14 studies involving 4172 patients were identified. Eight trials provided evidence for increased patients’ knowledge after web-based patient education. Seven trials reported increased satisfaction and user-friendliness. When the objective is to improve these outcomes web-based patient education may be offered as a time and cost efficient alternative to current educational interventions. No compelling evidence exists for an effect of web-based patient education on health attitudes and behaviour, pain and function, or anxiety. Web-based patient education appears an effective intervention to increase orthopaedic patients’ knowledge and satisfaction. These findings may however not be representative for older or lower educated patients, who have rarely been included in research trials.
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