Background eHealth involves the use of information and communication technologies (ICTs) for the delivery of healthcare and health information, including direct consumer technologies. eHealth strategies may help alleviate the burden on health systems in a cost-effective way and expand palliative care services.
Aim To systematically identify and synthesise evidence from published systematic reviews on the effects of eHealth interventions in palliative care for patients, caregivers and health professionals.
Methods Systematic reviews focused on eHealth and palliative care were eligible for inclusion in this meta-review. Nine databases including MEDLINE, EMBASE, PsychINFO, and the Grey Literature Report were searched for reviews in any language between 2006 and 2016. The Assessment of Multiple Systematic Reviews (AMSTAR) tool was used to critically appraise all included reviews. Data was then extracted and results were presented in a narrative synthesis.
Results Thirteen reviews were included. Methodological quality was low to moderate with AMSTAR scores ranging from 2 to 5 out of 11. eHealth interventions were primarily used for facilitating communication, symptom reporting and monitoring, education, information provision, clinical consultations, and decision-making in palliative care settings. There were positive effects of eHealth interventions on cost-effectiveness, decision-making, communication, education, and support for patients, caregivers and health care professionals. Inconsistent findings were reported regarding effects on quality of life (QOL), depression, and anxiety.
Conclusion The majority of reviews on eHealth interventions in palliative care report positive effects of interventions on patients, caregivers and professionals. While there were inconsistent findings in regards to depression, anxiety, and QOL, no negative outcomes were reported. This provides promising evidence for the value of eHealth interventions in palliative care. Further research, cost-analyses, and clinical studies are needed to strengthen the evidence base for eHealth interventions and to inform policy in this area.
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