Background: Internet interventions are assumed to be cost-effective. However, it is unclear how strong this evidence is, and what the quality of this evidence is.
Method: A comprehensive literature search (1990-2014) in Medline, EMBASE, the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, NHS Economic Evaluations Database, NHS Health Technology Assessment Database, Office of Health Economics Evaluations Database, Compendex and Inspec was conducted. We included economic evaluations alongside randomized controlled trials of Internet interventions for a range of mental health symptoms compared to a control group, consisting of a psychological or pharmaceutical intervention, treatment-as-usual (TAU), wait-list or an attention control group.
Results: Of the 6587 abstracts identified, 16 papers met the inclusion criteria. Nine studies featured a societal perspective. Results demonstrated that guided Internet interventions for depression, anxiety, smoking cessation and alcohol consumption had favourable probabilities of being more cost-effective when compared to wait-list, TAU, group cognitive behaviour therapy (CBGT), attention control, telephone counselling or unguided Internet CBT. Unguided Internet interventions for suicide prevention, depression and smoking cessation demonstrated cost-effectiveness compared to TAU or attention control. In general, results from cost-utility analyses using more generic health outcomes (quality of life) were less favourable for unguided Internet interventions. Most studies adhered reasonably to economic guidelines.
Conclusions: Results of guided Internet interventions being cost-effective are promising with most studies adhering to publication standards, but more economic evaluations are needed in order to determine cost-effectiveness of Internet interventions compared to the most cost-effective treatment currently available.
Keywords: Internet interventions; anxiety; cost-effectiveness; depression; substance abuse; suicidal behaviour.