OBJECTIVE: Electronic (eHealth) and mobile (mHealth) technologies may be a useful adjunct to clinicians treating patients with chronic pain. The primary aim of this study was to investigate the effects of eHealth and mHealth interventions that do not require clinician contact or feedback on pain-related outcomes recommended by the Initiative on Methods, Measurement, and Pain Assessment in Clinical Trials (IMMPACT) guidelines in adults with chronic pain.
METHODS: We searched four databases and included English language randomized controlled trials of ambulatory adults with chronic pain from January, 1 2000, to January 31, 2018, with interventions that are independent of clinician contact or feedback. In the meta-analysis, outcomes were assessed at short- (three months or less), intermediate- (four to six months), and long-term (seven or more months) follow-up.
RESULTS: Seventeen randomized controlled trials (N = 2,496) were included in the meta-analysis. Both eHealth and mHealth interventions had a significant effect on pain intensity at short- and intermediate-term follow-up. Similarly, a significant but small effect was observed for depression at short- and intermediate-term follow-up and self-efficacy at short-term follow-up. Finally, a significant effect was observed for pain catastrophizing at short-term follow-up.
CONCLUSIONS: eHealth and mHealth interventions had significant effects on multiple short- and intermediate-term outcome measures recommended in the IMMPACT guidelines. Given widespread availability and low cost to patients, clinicians treating patients with chronic pain could consider using eHealth and mHealth interventions as part of a multidisciplinary pain treatment strategy.
The improvement in catastrophizing is particularly noteworthy, given the strong negative correlation of this tendency with the capacity to live adaptively with chronic pain.