Exploring whether patients would be willing to take follow-up care instructions from a device rather than from a self-care professional, researchers at Case Western Reserve University’s School of Dental Medicine observed how 60 patients responded to oral hygiene care instructions from a computer versus a medical professional.

“In health care, we are not only preparing for an influx of elderly patients and a growing global middle-class wanting to improve quality of life, but also trying to keep a lid on the skyrocketing costs of care delivery,” said Leena Palomo, associate professor in the Department of Periodontics, who designed the project. “The challenge is how we can help more people who need it and help cut the already high cost of care delivery.”

“This is a new pathway to manage a self-care communication to the expected large numbers of people who need it,” she added. “Think about it: your care professional teaches you how to floss, how to brush. You ask questions, you leave. The conversation takes between eight to 10 minutes.”

Believing that this exchange could be handled via electronic device for a fraction of the cost while offering patients a chance to ask questions and options to repeat instructions or to learn more, researchers divided its 60 patients into two groups of 30 patients each according to age.

Those younger than 50 made up one group while those over 50 made up the second group.

Not surprising was that the younger group of patients preferred self-care instruction from the tablet. However, the older group reported feeling comfortable with receiving instructions from the devices as well.

“We asked, ‘Is it actually better to do this with technology?’” Palomo said. “The current 50-and-over crowd is as satisfied with technology as with the caregiver. It’s nice to have that caregiver talk, but today’s 50-year-old is tomorrow’s 70-year old. That’s what gave rise to this testing.”

Encouraged by their findings, researchers also see potential in using technology self-care instructions for other fields of medicine as well, including self-care for diabetic and chronic-obstructive pulmonary disease patients, according to Palomo.

For more information on the research, go to the Dentistry Journal.

To contact the author of this article, email mdonlon@globalspec.com