Digital public health (DiPH) provides novel approaches for prevention, potentially leading to long-term health benefits in resource-limited health systems. However, cost-effectiveness of DiPH interventions is unclear. This systematized review investigates the use of decision-analytic modelling in health economic evaluations of DiPH primary prevention and health promotion interventions, focusing on intervention’s design, methods used, results, and reporting quality.
PubMed, CINAHL, and Web of science were searched for studies of decision-analytic economic evaluations of digital interventions in primary prevention or health promotion, published up to June 2022. Intervention characteristics and selected items were extracted based on the Consolidated Health Economic Evaluation Reporting Standards (CHEERS). Incremental cost-effectiveness ratios (ICERs) were then extracted and price-adjusted to compare the economic evaluation results. Finally, the included studies’ reporting quality was assessed by building a score using CHEERS.
The database search (including search update) produced 2,273 hits. After removing duplicates, 1,434 titles and abstracts were screened. Of the 89 studies meeting the full-text search criteria, 14 were ultimately reviewed. The most common targets were physical activity (five studies) and weight loss (four). Digital applications include text messages, web-based inventions, app-based interventions, e-learning devices, and the promotion of smartphone apps. The mean ICER of the 12 studies using quality-adjusted life years (QALYs) is €20,955 per QALY (min. – €3,949; max. €114,211). The mean of reported CHEERS items per study is 81% (min. 59%; max. 91%).
This review only includes primary prevention and health promotion, and thus excludes other DiPH fields (e.g. secondary prevention). It also focuses on decision-analytic models, excluding study-based economic evaluations. Standard methods of economic evaluation could be adapted more to the specifics of DiPH by measuring the effectiveness of more current technologies through alternative methods, incorporating a societal perspective, and more clearly defining comparators. Nevertheless, the review demonstrates using common thresholds that the new field of DiPH shows potential for cost-effective preventive interventions.
Cost-effectiveness; Cost-utility; Digital health; Digital public health; Economic evaluation; Prevention; eHealth; mHealth.