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Digital Health Interventions for Delivery of Mental Health Care: Systematic and Comprehensive Meta-Review

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Background: The COVID-19 pandemic has shifted mental health care delivery to digital platforms, videoconferencing, and other mobile communications. However, existing reviews of digital health interventions are narrow in scope and focus on a limited number of mental health conditions.Objective: To address this gap, we conducted a comprehensive systematic meta-review of the literature to assess the state of digital health interventions for the treatment of mental health conditions.Methods: We searched MEDLINE for secondary literature published between 2010 and 2021 on the use, efficacy, and appropriateness of digital health interventions for the delivery of mental health care.Results: Of the 3022 records identified, 466 proceeded to full-text review and 304 met the criteria for inclusion in this study. A majority (52%) of research involved the treatment of substance use disorders, 29% focused on mood, anxiety, and traumatic stress disorders, and >5% for each remaining mental health conditions. Synchronous and asynchronous communication, computerized therapy, and cognitive training appear to be effective but require further examination in understudied mental health conditions. Similarly, virtual reality, mobile apps, social media platforms, and web-based forums are novel technologies that have the potential to improve mental health but require higher quality evidence.Conclusions: Digital health interventions offer promise in the treatment of mental health conditions. In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, digital health interventions provide a safer alternative to face-to-face treatment. However, further research on the applications of digital interventions in understudied mental health conditions is needed. Additionally, evidence is needed on the effectiveness and appropriateness of digital health tools for patients who are marginalized and may lack access to digital health interventions.
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