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Multimedia programs for educating patients about medications

Ciciriello S, Johnston RV, Osborne RH, Wicks I, deKroo T, Clerehan R, O'Neill C, Buchbinder R
Published Online: 
30 April 2013

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.