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Comput Biol Med. 1998 Sep;28(5):489-508.

Computer network home care demonstration: a randomized trial in persons living with AIDS.

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School of Nursing, University of Wisconsin-Madison 53706, USA.



As Internet-based health care applications grow, it is important to determine their acceptability to ill persons and the likely outcomes resulting from their use. This randomized field investigation demonstrated the use and effects of a specialized computer network, the ComputerLink, among persons living with AIDS (PLWA).


This study was designed to determine whether a home-based computer network designed for people with AIDS (PLWA) would be used and whether it would reduce social isolation and improve confidence and skill in decision making without causing differential decline in health status among PLWA.


Wyse 30 terminals were placed in private homes, linked via a 1200 baud modem to a public access computer network. Services available to PLWA included an on-line electronic encyclopedia, public and private communication and a decision support system; all services were coordinated by a registered nurse.


A six-month randomized trial involved 57 community-dwelling PLWA; 31 were in the experimental group. Mean age was 33, 93% were male, 61% white, 34% working, 13.5 mean years education. Six participants were lost to follow-up.


8449 accesses to the system were made during the study period. Mean number of access per participant was 192, the median, 129. Duration of access averaged 12 min. PLWA used two services during each session. First order hypotheses testing revealed no significant difference between experimental and control group participants. Post hoc exploration indicated that use of the system did reduce social isolation once participants levels of depression were controlled and that decision making confidence improved as a function of number of accesses.


Computer networks provide feasible alternatives for the delivery of health services to home-bound individuals. Communication services were used more extensively than other services, suggesting that the primary mechanism of intervention is peer contact. Similar to other experiments, system use improves confidence, though not skill, in decision making. The Internet represents a promising pathway to reaching home-bound patients and providing them with information, communication and decision assistance.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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