A systematic review of types and efficacy of online interventions for cancer patients

Patient Educ Couns. 2015 Mar;98(3):283-95. doi: 10.1016/j.pec.2014.11.002. Epub 2014 Nov 18.


Objective: This review examines the evidence-based literature surrounding the use of online resources for adult cancer patients. The focus is online resources that connect patients with their healthcare clinician and with supportive and educational resources, their efficacy and the outcome measures used to assess them.

Methods: The following databases were systematically searched for relevant literature: MEDLINE, PsychINFO, Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, CINAHL, Inspec and Computers and Applied Science. Included were studies conducted in an outpatient setting, and reporting a measurable, clinically relevant outcome. Fourteen studies satisfied the inclusion criteria.

Results: The efficacy of online interventions was varied, with some demonstrating positive effects on quality of life and related measures, and two demonstrating poorer outcomes for intervention participants. The majority of interventions reported mixed results. Included interventions were too heterogeneous for meta-analysis.

Conclusions: The overall benefit of online interventions for cancer patients is unclear. Although there is a plethora of interventions reported without analysis, current interventions demonstrate mixed efficacy of limited duration when rigorously evaluated.

Practice implications: The efficacy of on-line interventions for cancer patients is unclear. All on-line interventions should be developed using the available evidence-base and rigorously evaluated to expand our understanding of this area.

Keywords: Cancer; Internet; Oncology; Online; Quality of life; Social media.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Health Personnel
  • Health Promotion / methods*
  • Humans
  • Internet*
  • Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Quality of Life*
  • Social Support*