Supportive care interventions for people with cancer assisted by digital technology: Systematic review

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Journal of Medical Internet Research


Background: Although relatively new, digital health interventions are demonstrating rapid growth because of their ability to facilitate access and overcome issues of location, time, health status, and most recently, the impact of a major pandemic. With the increased uptake of digital technologies, digital health has the potential to improve the provision of supportive cancer care. Objective: This systematic review aims to evaluate digital health interventions for supportive cancer care. Methods: Published literature between 2000 and 2020 was systematically searched in MEDLINE, PubMed, Embase, PsycINFO, Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, and Scopus. Eligible publications were randomized controlled trials of clinician-led digital health interventions to support adult cancer patients. The interventions included were determined by applying a digital health conceptual model. Studies were appraised for quality using the revised Cochrane risk of bias tool. Results: Twenty randomized controlled trials met the inclusion criteria for the analysis. Interventions varied by duration, frequency, degree of technology use, and applied outcome measures. Interventions targeting a single tumor stream, predominantly breast cancer, and studies involving the implementation of remote symptom monitoring have dominated the results. In most studies, digital intervention resulted in significant positive outcomes in patient-reported symptoms, levels of fatigue and pain, health-related quality of life, functional capacity, and depression levels compared with the control. Conclusions: Digital health interventions are helpful and effective for supportive care of patients with cancer. There is a need for high-quality research. Future endeavors could focus on the use of valid, standardized outcome measures, maintenance of methodological rigor, and strategies to improve patient and health professional engagement in the design and delivery of supportive digital health interventions.

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