Effects of telehealth by allied health professionals and nurses in rural and remote areas: A systematic review and meta-analysis

J Rehabil Med. 2018 Feb 28;50(3):225-235. doi: 10.2340/16501977-2297.


Objective: To describe telehealth interventions delivered by allied health professionals and nurses in rural and remote areas, and to compare the effects of telehealth interventions with standard face-to-face interventions.

Data sources: CINAHL, Embase, PsycINFO and PubMed databases were searched. The content of relevant journals and published articles were also searched.

Study selection: Studies examining the effectiveness of allied health and nursing telehealth interventions for rural and remote populations were included in descriptive analyses. Studies comparing telehealth intervention with standard face-to-face interventions grouped by type of intervention approach were used to examine between-groups effect sizes.

Data extraction: Methodological quality of studies was rated using the QualSyst critical appraisal tool and the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Evidence Hierarchy levels.

Data synthesis: After quality ratings, 43 studies were included. A majority of studies had strong methodological quality. The disciplines of psychology and nursing were represented most frequently, as were studies using a cognitive intervention approach. Meta-analysis results slightly favoured telehealth interventions compared with face-to-face interventions, but did not show significant differences. Interventions using a combined physical and cognitive approach appeared to be more effective.

Conclusion: Telehealth services may be as effective as face-to-face interventions, which is encouraging given the potential benefits of telehealth in rural and remote areas with regards to healthcare access and time and cost savings.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Allied Health Personnel / standards*
  • Health Services Accessibility / standards*
  • Humans
  • Rural Population
  • Telemedicine / methods*
  • Treatment Outcome