Objective Digital innovations with internet/mobile phones offer a potential cost-saving solution for overburdened health systems with high service delivery costs to improve efficiency of HIV/STI (sexually transmitted infections) control initiatives. However, their overall evidence has not yet been appraised. We evaluated the feasibility and impact of all digital innovations for all HIV/STIs.
Design Systematic review.
Setting/participants All settings/all participants.
Intervention We classified digital innovations into (1) mobile health-based (mHealth: SMS (short message service)/phone calls), (2) internet-based mobile and/or electronic health (mHealth/eHealth: social media, avatar-guided computer programs, websites, mobile applications, streamed soap opera videos) and (3) combined innovations (included both SMS/phone calls and internet-based mHealth/eHealth).
Primary and secondary outcome measures Feasibility, acceptability, impact.
Methods We searched databases MEDLINE via PubMed, Embase, Cochrane CENTRAL and Web of Science, abstracted data, explored heterogeneity, performed a random effects subgroup analysis.
Results We reviewed 99 studies, 63 (64%) were from America/Europe, 36 (36%) from Africa/Asia; 79% (79/99) were clinical trials; 84% (83/99) evaluated impact. Of innovations, mHealth based: 70% (69/99); internet based: 21% (21/99); combined: 9% (9/99).
All digital innovations were highly accepted (26/31; 84%), and feasible (20/31; 65%). Regarding impacted measures, mHealth-based innovations (SMS) significantly improved antiretroviral therapy (ART) adherence (pooled OR=2.15(95%CI: 1.18 to 3.91)) and clinic attendance rates (pooled OR=1.76(95%CI: 1.28, 2.42)); internet-based innovations improved clinic attendance (6/6), ART adherence (4/4), self-care (1/1), while reducing risk (5/5); combined innovations increased clinic attendance, ART adherence, partner notifications and self-care. Confounding (68%) and selection bias (66%) were observed in observational studies and attrition bias in 31% of clinical trials.
Conclusion Digital innovations were acceptable, feasible and generated impact. A trend towards the use of internet-based and combined (internet and mobile) innovations was noted. Large scale-up studies of high quality, with new integrated impact metrics, and cost-effectiveness are needed. Findings will appeal to all stakeholders in the HIV/STI global initiatives space.
- sexually transmitted infections
- systematic reviews
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Contributors NPP, JD: concept, design. NPP: data critiquing, write-up, critique, and overall responsibility of the data. JD: data synthesis, write-up, critiquing. RV, BL and SD: data synthesis, write"up and critique. JK, TP and KD: write"up and critique.
Funding Grand Challenges Canada Transition to Scale; Grant number 0710"05.FRSQ Salary Award Chercheur"Boursier Junior 2.
Competing interests None declared.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.
Data sharing statement No additional data are available. This is a systematic review/syntheses of existing studies, therefore all data are reported in the tables.
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