Background. Alcohol misuse is a significant public health issue resulting in substantial
morbidity, premature mortality and costs to the healthcare system. Although face-to-face
interventions offered by health practitioners have been shown to be effective, they are not routinely
offered due to lack of time, training and resources, and potential damage to rapport. Computerbased
interventions may help overcome these implementation barriers.
Approach. Suitable research databases were searched and studies were selected if they
described digital or computer-based alcohol interventions used by primary care patients. Studies which did not report
patient alcohol outcomes were excluded.
Key findings. Fifteen trials were identified, eleven of which trialled brief interventions only while the remaining four
trialled both brief and extended interventions. Nine trials were associated with a reduction in alcohol use at followup.
Conclusion. This is the first systematic review of digital or computer-based alcohol intervention programs used by primary
care patients. Although the number of trials in this area of research is relatively small, their findings indicate effectiveness
in reducing alcohol consumption as well as drinking related consequences. Extended interventions which offer additional
opportunities to monitor drinking over time appear no more effective than single occasion brief interventions. These
findings suggest that digital and computer-based interventions in primary care may have the potential to increase alcohol
intervention activities in the general population at a relatively low cost and low burden on practitioners.