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.