Digital health interventions for the management of mental health in people with chronic diseases: a rapid review

BMJ Open. 2021 Apr 5;11(4):e044437. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2020-044437.


Objective: Determine the effectiveness of digital mental health interventions for individuals with a concomitant chronic disease.

Design: We conducted a rapid review of systematic reviews. Two reviewers independently conducted study selection and risk of bias evaluation. A standardised extraction form was used. Data are reported narratively.

Interventions: We included systematic reviews of digital health interventions aiming to prevent, detect or manage mental health problems in individuals with a pre-existing chronic disease, including chronic mental health illnesses, published in 2010 or after.

Main outcome measure: Reports on mental health outcomes (eg, anxiety symptoms and depression symptoms).

Results: We included 35 reviews, totalling 702 primary studies with a total sample of 50 692 participants. We structured the results in four population clusters: (1) chronic diseases, (2) cancer, (3) mental health and (4) children and youth. For populations presenting a chronic disease or cancer, health provider directed digital interventions (eg, web-based consultation, internet cognitive-behavioural therapy) are effective and safe. Further analyses are required in order to provide stronger recommendations regarding relevance for specific population (such as children and youth). Web-based interventions and email were the modes of administration that had the most reports of improvement. Virtual reality, smartphone applications and patient portal had limited reports of improvement.

Conclusions: Digital technologies could be used to prevent and manage mental health problems in people living with chronic conditions, with consideration for the age group and type of technology used.

Keywords: general medicine (see internal medicine); health informatics; mental health.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Chronic Disease
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy*
  • Humans
  • Mental Disorders* / therapy
  • Mental Health
  • Systematic Reviews as Topic