Telemedicine use among caregivers of cancer patients: Systematic review

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Background: The number of published studies and systematic reviews examining different telehealth interventions targeting patients and their effects on patients’ well-being and quality of life have grown in recent decades. However, the use of telemedicine tools aimed at the family members and caregivers of adult cancer patients is less defined. Objective: We aimed to conduct a systematic review to provide a more complete picture regarding telemedicine tools for informal caregivers (usually family members or close friends) implemented in all phases of cancer care. More specifically, the review aimed to better describe the study samples’ characteristics, to analyze measured outcomes and the specific questionnaires used to assess them, and to describe in depth the implemented interventions and their formats. Finally, we examined the role of telehealth, and usability and feasibility trends in supporting patients’ caregivers. Methods: We systematically searched the literature in the following databases: Web of Science, Cochrane Library, PubMed, Scopus, CINAHL, MEDLINE, EMBASE, Google Scholar, and PsycINFO. Inclusion criteria were being written in English, published in peer-reviewed journals, describing a telehealth-implemented intervention, and focusing on caregivers of adult cancer patients at any stage of the disease. We selected studies published up to November 2017. We critically appraised included articles using the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses and graded the quality of evidence by outcome using the Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine framework. Results: We included 24 studies in the final selection. In 21 of the 24 studies, the patient-caregiver dyad was analyzed, and the study population dealt with different types of cancer at different stages. Included studies considered the caregiver’s condition from both an individual and a relational point of view. Along with psychosocial variables, some studies monitored engagement and user satisfaction regarding Web-based platforms or telehealth interventions. All studies reported significant improvements in some of the investigated areas, but they often showed small effect sizes. Two types of telehealth intervention formats were used: Web-based platforms and telephone calls. Some of the included studies referred to the same project, but on study samples with different cancer diagnoses or with new versions of previously developed interventions. Conclusions: Reported outcomes seem to suggest that we are in an exploratory phase. More detailed and targeted research hypotheses are still needed. Clarifying caregivers’ needs related to telehealth tools and better defining outcome measures may yield more significant results.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere223
JournalJournal of Medical Internet Research
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 1 2018


  • Caregivers
  • Family
  • Neoplasms
  • Systematic review
  • Telemedicine

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Informatics


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