The objective of this scoping review was to identify studies combining the concepts of eHealth and work participation for sick-listed employees across diagnostic groups in health care and workplace contexts.
There is an increased demand for better health care services and technologies, and eHealth is proposed as a useful tool to improve efficiency and reduce costs. eHealth functions at the intersection of medical informatics, public health, and business, and may be a promising solution for managing the process of return to work among employees on sick leave.
Assessment of work outcomes is essential in evaluating the effectiveness of health services, and there is a need to map the research literature on existing eHealth interventions to facilitate work participation.
This scoping review considered studies combining two core concepts: eHealth and work participation. It considered studies on eHealth interventions for employees (18 to 65 years of age) on sick leave due to any type of diagnosis or disability, conducted by any stakeholder in workplace or health care contexts and in any country. Empirical data from both quantitative and qualitative studies were included.
Published and unpublished studies from January 1, 2008, to August 21, 2020, written in English were included in this review. The search was conducted in MEDLINE, Scopus, Embase, PsycINFO, WHO clinical registry, and ClinicalTrials.gov.
A three-step search strategy was followed. Data extraction was performed by two independent reviewers and undertaken using an extraction tool developed specifically for the scoping review objectives.
This review identified 15 studies eligible for inclusion. Four studies delivered the eHealth intervention by telephone, while 10 interventions were web-based.
Of the web-based interventions, five had a blended approach, such as website and email support, or website and social media platforms. One study used an app-based intervention. Only eight studies targeted employees sick-listed due to common sick leave diagnoses, such as common mental disorders and musculoskeletal disorders.
The workplace context was the target of the eHealth intervention in seven studies, although the intervention was still delivered by health personnel such as therapists or occupational physicians. Collaboration on individual cases between the health professional, employer, and employee to facilitate work participation seemed to be rare. Four studies reported both a theoretical and an empirical base for the intervention used.
This review demonstrated that the use of eHealth interventions to facilitate work participation is limited, and there is a need for future studies on the use of eHealth technology for this purpose. Developing eHealth interventions specifically for populations at risk of long-term sick leave, and encouraging collaboration between all relevant stakeholders, may help improve work participation.
eHealth; occupational rehabilitation; return to work; sick leave; workplace intervention