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Application and Effectiveness of Telehealth to Support Severe Mental Illness Management: Systematic Review

Wickwar, S., McBain, H. B. ORCID: 0000-0002-6742-1104 & Mulligan, K. ORCID: 0000-0002-6003-3029 (2018). Application and Effectiveness of Telehealth to Support Severe Mental Illness Management: Systematic Review. Journal of Medical Internet Research Mental Health, 5(4), e62. doi: 10.2196/mental.8816


Background: It is important that people with SMI receive early interventions to prevent mental health deterioration or relapse. Telecommunications and other technologies are increasingly used to assist healthcare delivery (‘telehealth’) , providing service users with immediate real-time information to improve the management of chronic health conditions. Telehealth has been found to be successful in improving management and symptoms across a number of health conditions, whilst also being acceptable to users. Initial findings suggest technology could improve quality of life in people with SMI.

Objectives: This systematic review aimed to identify the variety of uses and efficacy of teleheal th technology for SMI.

Methods: We systematically searched electronic databases from inception to March 2016 (MEDLINE, EMBASE, PsycINFO, Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, AMED, He alth Techno logy Assessment, CINAHL plus and NHS EED ) for randomised controlled trials (RCTs) evaluating telehealth for adults with SMI , published in English. Additional literature was identified by searching reference lists of key articles. The articles meeting the inclusion criteria were systematically reviewed and assessed for quality and risk of bias.

Results: The search identified 31 eligible articles, describing 29 trials. The included studies evaluated the use of computers to deliver cognitive rehabilitation (1 5 trials), patient education (3 trials), online self- management interventions (2 trials), and to support consultations (1 trial). Virtual reality (VR) was used to simulate work and social sit uations (2 trials ) and to deliver cognitive training (1 trial). Telephones were used to prompt medication use (3 trials ) and report SMI symptoms to healthcare teams (1 trial ). Remote sensors were used to monitor medication use (1 trial). Telephone support was found effective for improving medication adherence and reducing symptom severity and inpatient days. Computer assisted cognitive rehabilitation was effective in improving cognitive function. The impact of telehealth on other outcomes was inconsistent. Few studies evaluated the 3 use of remote medication telemonitoring, VR, online self-management and computer -mediated consultations, suggesting these are novel technologies for managing SMI, although all were found effective for improving psycho social and behavioural outcomes. The results of this review should be taken in the context of varied quality in study design, with only five studies demonstrating a low risk of bias.

Conclusions : A growing variety of telehealth technologies are used to support SMI. Specific types of technology have been found to be effective for som e outcomes, for example telephone prompts for medication adherence, while other types of telehealth had no benefit over traditional methods and were less acceptable to patients. Few studies found benefits for telehealth on quality of life, except for novel technologies with a limited number of trials. Further research is warranted to establish the full potential benefits of telehealth for improving quality of life in SMI, acceptability from the service user perspective, and cost-effectiveness

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: ©Sadie Lawes-Wickwar, Hayley McBain, Kathleen Mulligan. Originally published in JMIR Mental Health (, 21.11.2018. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work, first published in JMIR Mental Health, is properly cited. The complete bibliographic information, a link to the original publication on, as well as this copyright and license information must be included.
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine > RA0421 Public health. Hygiene. Preventive Medicine
T Technology
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Healthcare Services Research & Management
Text - Published Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution.

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