Does Ehealth therapy work for physical conditions?

Can online treatment benefit patients with chronic physical disorders? Cognitive behavioural therapy via internet has been shown to be effective. Health psychologist Sylvia van Beugen writes in the 'Journal of Medical Internet Research' about the effects of Ehealth therapy for physical disorders.

Online treatments

Patients with chronic physical disorders often have to cope with difficulties in daily life. They may have problems with acceptance or mood issues, or they may find it hard to cope with pain, the restrictions caused by their condition and the resulting changes in their lifestyle. Psychological treatment methods such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) can benefit these patients. The effectiveness of 'face to face' therapy for chronic physical conditions has already been demonstrated; Ehealth CBT is a new way of delivering this treatment.

Reducing anxiety and depression

Scientific studies are increasingly being carried out on the effectiveness of online, flexible and low-threshold programmes for patient support. Van Beugen and her colleagues have made a systematic study of the effectiveness of such programmes for specific patient groups. Patients with chronic physical disorders were given a treatment based on cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). They had regular contact with a therapist about problems such as chronic pain, tinnitus, irritable bowel syndrome, diabetes and breast cancer. Ehealth CBT was shown to reduce anxiety and depression in these patients.

Improving physical and psychological wellbeing

Ehealth was most effective for outcomes directly related to the condition itself, for example, the effects on the patient's quality of life, and on the physical symptoms caused by the condition, such as headaches and the bodily effects of irritable bowel syndrome. Longer term intervention was also shown to be more effective for depression than shorter treatments. In summary, Ehealth CBT is an effective method of supporting patients with chronic physical symptoms that are directly related to the condition itself and of improving their physical and psychological wellbeing. The fact that the treatment is more effective in handling complaints that are a direct consequence of the condition underlines the importance of personalised care for individual patients and their particular problems.

More research

Ehealth for physical conditions is a key area of study for the research group of Andrea Evers and Henriët van Middendorp (Health, Medical and Neuropsychology). As well as studies of a broad range of physical conditions, including chronic pain, itching and kidney disorders, Evers and her colleagues are also working systematically on introducing these Ehealth treatment methods across a broader group of patients, implementing in practice methods that have proven effective in research. 

(28 April 2014)

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Last Modified: 01-05-2014