Assessment of an Interactive Digital Health–Based Self-management Program to Reduce Hospitalizations Among Patients With Multiple Chronic Diseases Academic Article uri icon

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  • Importance

    Digital health programs may have the potential to prevent hospitalizations among patients with chronic diseases by supporting patient self-management, symptom monitoring, and coordinated care.


    To compare the effect of an internet-based self-management and symptom monitoring program targeted to patients with 2 or more chronic diseases (internet chronic disease management [CDM]) with usual care on hospitalizations over a 2-year period.

    Design, setting, and participants

    This single-blinded randomized clinical trial included patients with multiple chronic diseases from 71 primary care clinics in small urban and rural areas throughout British Columbia, Canada. Recruitment occurred between October 1, 2011, and March 23, 2015. A volunteer sample of 456 patients was screened for eligibility. Inclusion criteria included daily internet access, age older than 19 years, fluency in English, and the presence of 2 or more of the following 5 conditions: diabetes, heart failure, ischemic heart disease, chronic kidney disease, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. A total of 230 patients consented to participate and were randomized to receive either the internet CDM intervention (n = 117) or usual care (n = 113). One participant in the internet CDM group withdrew from the study after randomization, resulting in 229 participants for whom data on the primary outcome were available.


    Internet-based self-management program using telephone nursing supports and integration within primary care compared with usual care over a 2-year period.

    Main outcomes and measures

    The primary outcome was all-cause hospitalizations at 2 years. Secondary outcomes included hospital length of stay, quality of life, self-management, and social support. Additional outcomes included the number of participants with at least 1 hospitalization, the number of participants who experienced a composite outcome of all-cause hospitalization or death, the time to first hospitalization, and the number of in-hospital days.


    Among 229 participants included in the analysis, the mean (SD) age was 70.5 (9.1) years, and 141 participants (61.6%) were male; data on race and ethnicity were not collected because there was no planned analysis of these variables. The internet CDM group had 25 fewer hospitalizations compared with the usual care group (56 hospitalizations vs 81 hospitalizations, respectively [30.9% reduction]; relative risk [RR], 0.68; 95% CI, 0.43-1.10; P = .12). The intervention group also had 229 fewer in-hospital days compared with the usual care group (282 days vs 511 days, respectively; RR, 0.52; 95% CI, 0.24-1.10; P = .09). Components of self-management and social support improved in the intervention group. Fewer participants in the internet CDM vs usual care group had at least 1 hospitalization (32 of 116 individuals [27.6%] vs 46 of 113 individuals [40.7%]; odds ratio [OR], 0.55; 95% CI, 0.31-0.96; P = .03) or experienced the composite outcome of all-cause hospitalization or death (37 of 116 individuals [31.9%] vs 51 of 113 individuals [45.1%]; OR, 0.57; 95% CI, 0.33-0.98; P = .04). Participants in the internet CDM group had a lower risk of time to first hospitalization (hazard ratio, 0.62; 95% CI, 0.39-0.97; P = .04) than those in the usual care group.

    Conclusions and relevance

    In this study, an internet-based self-management program did not result in a significant reduction in hospitalization. However, fewer participants in the intervention group were admitted to the hospital or experienced the composite outcome of all-cause hospitalization or death. These findings suggest the internet CDM program has the potential to augment primary care among patients with multiple chronic diseases.

    Trial registration Identifier: NCT01342263.


  • Lear, Scott A
  • Norena, Monica
  • Banner, Davina
  • Whitehurst, David GT
  • Gill, Sabrina
  • Burns, Jane
  • Kandola, Damanpreet K
  • Johnston, Suzanne
  • Horvat, Dan
  • Vincent, Kaitey
  • Levin, Adeera
  • Kaan, Annemarie
  • Van Spall, Harriette
  • Singer, Joel

publication date

  • December 2021