Measures of Effectiveness, Efficiency, and Quality of Telemedicine in the Management of Alcohol Abuse, Addiction, and Rehabilitation: Systematic Review

J Med Internet Res. 2020 Jan 31;22(1):e13252. doi: 10.2196/13252.


Background: More than 18 million Americans are currently suffering from alcohol use disorder (AUD): a compulsive behavior of alcohol use as a result of a chronic, relapsing brain disease. With alcohol-related injuries being one of the leading causes of preventable deaths, there is a dire need to find ways to assist those suffering from alcohol dependence. There still exists a gap in knowledge as to the potential of telemedicine in improving health outcomes for those patients suffering from AUD.

Objective: The purpose of this systematic review was to evaluate the measures of effectiveness, efficiency, and quality that result from the utilization of telemedicine in the management of alcohol abuse, addiction, and rehabilitation.

Methods: This review was conducted utilizing the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses guidelines. The articles used in this analysis were gathered using keywords inclusive of both telemedicine and alcohol abuse, which were then searched in the Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature, Cochrane, and MEDLINE (PubMed) databases. A total of 22 articles were chosen for analysis.

Results: The results indicated that telemedicine reduced alcohol consumption. Other common outcomes included reduced depression (4/35, 11%), increased patient satisfaction (3/35, 9%), increase in accessibility (3/35, 9%), increased quality of life (2/35, 6%), and decreased cost (1/35, 3%). Interventions included mobile health (11/22, 50%), electronic health (6/22, 27%), telephone (3/33, 14%), and 2-way video (2/22, 9%). Studies were conducted in 3 regions: the United States (13/22, 59%), the European Union (8/22, 36%), and Australia (1/22, 5%).

Conclusions: Telemedicine was found to be an effective tool in reducing alcohol consumption and increasing patients' accessibility to health care services or health providers. The group of articles for analysis suggested that telemedicine may be effective in reducing health care costs and improving the patient's quality of life. Although telemedicine shows promise as an effective way to manage alcohol-related disorders, it should be further investigated before implementation.

Keywords: alcohol abuse; alcohol use disorder; mHealth; rehabilitation; telehealth; telemedicine.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Alcoholism / psychology*
  • Behavior, Addictive / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Quality of Life / psychology*
  • Rehabilitation / psychology*
  • Telemedicine / methods*