BACKGROUND: Psychological interventions are recommended for people with severe mental health problems (SMI). However, barriers exist in the provision of these services and access is limited. Therefore, researchers are beginning to develop and deliver interventions online and via mobile phones. Previous research has indicated that interventions delivered in this format are acceptable for people with SMI. However, a comprehensive systematic review is needed to investigate the acceptability of online and mobile phone-delivered interventions for SMI in depth.
OBJECTIVE: This systematic review aimed to 1) identify the hypothetical acceptability (acceptability prior to or without the delivery of an intervention) and actual acceptability (acceptability where an intervention was delivered) of online and mobile phone-delivered interventions for SMI, 2) investigate the impact of factors such as demographic and clinical characteristics on acceptability, and 3) identify common participant views in qualitative studies that pinpoint factors influencing acceptability.
METHODS: We conducted a systematic search of the databases PubMed, Embase, PsycINFO, CINAHL, and Web of Science in April 2015, which yielded a total of 8017 search results, with 49 studies meeting the full inclusion criteria. Studies were included if they measured acceptability through participant views, module completion rates, or intervention use. Studies delivering interventions were included if the delivery method was online or via mobile phones.
RESULTS: The hypothetical acceptability of online and mobile phone-delivered interventions for SMI was relatively low, while actual acceptability tended to be high. Hypothetical acceptability was higher for interventions delivered via text messages than by emails. The majority of studies that assessed the impact of demographic characteristics on acceptability reported no significant relationships between the two. Additionally, actual acceptability was higher when participants were provided remote online support. Common qualitative factors relating to acceptability were safety and privacy concerns, the importance of an engaging and appealing delivery format, the inclusion of peer support, computer and mobile phone literacy, technical issues, and concerns about the impact of psychological state on intervention use.
CONCLUSIONS: This systematic review provides an in-depth focus on the acceptability of online and mobile phone-delivered interventions for SMI and identified the need for further research in this area. Based on the results from this review, we recommend that researchers measure both hypothetical and actual acceptability to identify whether initial perceptions of online and mobile phone-delivered interventions change after access. In addition, more focus is needed on the potential impact of demographic and clinical characteristics on acceptability. The review also identified issues with module completion rates and intervention use as measures of acceptability. We therefore advise researchers to obtain qualitative reports of acceptability throughout each phase of intervention development and testing. Further implications and opportunities for future research are discussed.