Electronic (eHealth) and mobile (mHealth) technologies may provide short- and intermediate-term improvements in pain intensity for patients with chronic pain, according to a study published in Pain Medicine.
Researchers specializing in pain medicine performed a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials conducted between 2000 to 2018 in which the efficacy of eHealth or mHealth systems was examined in ambulatory adult patients with chronic pain (17 trials; n=2496). In the studies selected, eHealth and mHealth technologies consisted of telephone contact, telephone feedback, or video conferencing. Outcomes were evaluated in the short , intermediate , and long term (≤3 months, 4-6 months, and ≥7 months, respectively).
Pain intensity outcomes were reported and assessed using a numeric rating scale, a visual analog scale, the Brief Pain Inventory pain subscale, or the Fibromyalgia Impact Questionnaire pain subscale in 13 of 17 studies (n=1577). eHealth and mHealth vs no intervention were found to be associated with a reduction in pain intensity in the short term in studies in which pain was evaluated with a numeric rating scale (7 studies; n=881; weighted mean difference [WMD], –0.40; 95% CI, –0.70 to –0.09; P =.01).
Similar findings for eHealth and mHealth interventions were observed at intermediate-term follow-up (WMD, –0.38; 95% CI, –0.71 to –0.05; P =.02) but not at long-term follow-up (WMD, –0.21; 95% CI, –0.75-0.32; P =.44). eHealth and mHealth interventions were also found to be associated with benefits on short- and intermediate-term depression, short-term pain catastrophizing, and short-term self-efficacy.
A limitation of the meta-analysis is the inclusion of studies that lacked participant blinding.
“Given [the] widespread availability and low cost to patients, clinicians treating patients with chronic pain could consider the use of eHealth and mHealth interventions as part of a multidisciplinary pain treatment strategy,” concluded the study authors.
Moman RN, Dvorkin J, Pollard EM, et al. A systematic review and meta-analysis of unguided electronic and mobile health technologies for chronic pain—is it time to start prescribing electronic health applications? [published August 6, 2019]. Pain Med. doi:10.1093/pm/pnz164