There has been a dramatic increase in the development of electronic systems to support cancer patients to report and manage side effects of treatment from home. Systems vary in the features they offer to patients, which may affect how patients engage with them and how they improve patient-centered outcomes.
This review aimed to (1) describe the features and functions of existing electronic symptom reporting systems (eg, symptom monitoring, tailored self-management advice), and (2) explore which features may be associated with patient engagement and patient-centered outcomes.
The review was registered with the International Prospective Register of Systematic Reviews (PROSPERO) and followed guidelines from the Centre for Reviews and Dissemination (University of York, United Kingdom). Primary searches were undertaken of MEDLINE, Embase, PsycInfo, Web of Science, Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, and the Health Technology Assessment databases. Secondary searches were undertaken by screening reference lists and citations. Two researchers applied broad inclusion criteria to identify and select relevant records. Data were extracted and summarized using Microsoft Excel. In order to meet the aims, the study selection, data extraction, and data synthesis comprised two stages: (1) identifying and characterizing available systems and (2) summarizing data on patient engagement and patient-centered outcomes.
We identified 77 publications relating to 41 distinct systems. In Stage 1, all publications were included (N=77). The features identified that supported clinicians and care were facility for health professionals to remotely access and monitor patient-reported data (24/41, 58%) and function to send alerts to health professionals for severe symptoms (17/41, 41%). Features that supported patients were facility for patients to monitor/review their symptom reports over time (eg, graphs) (19/41, 46%), general patient information about cancer treatment and side effects (17/41, 41%), tailored automated patient advice on symptom management (12/41, 29%), feature for patients to communicate with the health care team (6/41, 15%), and a forum for patients to communicate with one another (4/41, 10%). In Stage 2, only publications that included some data on patient engagement or patient-centered outcomes were included (N=29). A lack of consistency between studies in how engagement was defined, measured, or reported, and a wide range of methods chosen to evaluate systems meant that it was not possible to compare across studies or make conclusions on relationships with system features.
Electronic systems have the potential to help patients manage side effects of cancer treatment, with some evidence to suggest a positive effect on patient-centered outcomes. However, comparison across studies is difficult due to the wide range of assessment tools used. There is a need to develop guidelines for assessing and reporting engagement with systems, and a set of core outcomes for evaluation. We hope that this review will contribute to the field by introducing a taxonomy for characterizing system features.