Using technology to engage hospitalised patients in their care: a realist review

Citations of this article
Mendeley users who have this article in their library.

This article is free to access.


Background: Patient participation in health care is associated with improved outcomes for patients and hospitals. New technologies are creating vast potential for patients to participate in care at the bedside. Several studies have explored patient use, satisfaction and perceptions of health information technology (HIT) interventions in hospital. Understanding what works for whom, under what conditions, is important when considering interventions successfully engaging patients in care. This realist review aimed to determine key features of interventions using bedside technology to engage hospital patients in their care and analyse these in terms of context, mechanisms and outcomes. Methods: A realist review was chosen to explain how and why complex HIT interventions work or fail within certain contexts. The review was guided by Pawson’s realist review methodology, involving: clarifying review scope; searching for evidence; data extraction and evidence appraisal; synthesising evidence and drawing conclusions. Author experience and an initial literature scope provided insight and review questions and theories (propositions) around why interventions worked were developed and iteratively refined. A purposive search was conducted to find evidence to support, refute or identify further propositions, which formed an explanatory model. Each study was ‘mined’ for evidence to further develop the propositions and model. Results: Interactive learning was the overarching theme of studies using technology to engage patients in their care. Several propositions underpinned this, which were labelled: information sharing; self-assessment and feedback; tailored education; user-centred design; and support in use of HIT. As studies were mostly feasibility or usability studies, they reported patient-centred outcomes including patient acceptability, satisfaction and actual use of HIT interventions. For each proposition, outcomes were proposed to come about by mechanisms including improved communication, shared decision-making, empowerment and self-efficacy; which acted as facilitators to patient participation in care. Overall, there was a stronger representation of health than IT disciplines in studies reviewed, with a lack of IT input in terms of theoretical underpinning, methodological design and reporting of outcomes. Conclusion: HIT interventions have great potential for engaging hospitalised patients in their care. However, stronger interdisciplinary collaboration between health and IT researchers is needed for effective design and evaluation of HIT interventions.




Roberts, S., Chaboyer, W., Gonzalez, R., & Marshall, A. (2017). Using technology to engage hospitalised patients in their care: a realist review. BMC Health Services Research, 17(1).

Register to see more suggestions

Mendeley helps you to discover research relevant for your work.

Already have an account?

Save time finding and organizing research with Mendeley

Sign up for free