Background: The long-term management of chronic diseases requires adoption of complex dietary recommendations, which can be facilitated by regular coaching to support sustained behaviour change. Telehealth interventions can overcome patient-centred barriers to accessing face-to-face programs and provide feasible delivery methods, ubiquitous and accessible regardless of geographic location. The protocol for this systematic review explains the methods that will be utilised to answer the review question of whether telehealth interventions are effective at promoting change in dietary intake and improving diet quality in people with chronic disease.
Methods/design: A structured search of Medline, EMBASE, CINAHL, and PsychINFO, from their inception, will be conducted. We will consider randomised controlled trials which evaluate complex dietary interventions in adults with chronic disease. Studies must provide diet education in an intervention longer than 4 weeks in duration, and at least half of the intervention contact must be delivered via telehealth. Comparisons will be made against usual care or a non-telehealth intervention. The primary outcome of interest is dietary change with secondary outcomes relating to clinical markers pre-specified in the methodology. The process for selecting studies, extracting data, and resolving conflicts will follow a set protocol. Two authors will independently appraise the studies and extract the data, using specified methods. Meta-analyses will be conducted where appropriate, with parameters for determining statistical heterogeneity pre-specified. The GRADE tool will be used for determining the quality of evidence for analysed outcomes.
Discussion: To date, there has been a considerable variability in the strategies used to deliver dietary education, and the overall effectiveness of telehealth dietary interventions for facilitating dietary change has not been reviewed systematically in adults with chronic disease. A systematic synthesis of telehealth strategies will inform the development of evidence-based telehealth programs that can be tailored to deliver dietary interventions specific to chronic disease conditions.
Systematic review registration: PROSPERO CRD42015026398.