To conduct a scoping review of mobile health (mHealth) application (app) interventions to support needs of adults living with the effects of stroke reported in the literature.
PubMed, Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature (CINAHL), and Scopus were systematically searched for peer-reviewed publications. Articles were published between January 2007 and September 2020 and met predefined inclusion and exclusion criteria.
Articles included were written in English language, involved adults older than 18 years, and described an mHealth app specifically tested and/or developed as an intervention for someone with stroke to be used remotely and/or independently without constant provider supervision or assistance. Articles were excluded if they focused on acute management of stroke only, focused on primary prevention, were animal studies, were not an app for smartphone or tablet, and did not describe an empirical study.
Two researchers independently screened titles and abstracts for inclusion. The full-text articles were then reviewed for eligibility by the research team. Data were extracted and verified by a third reviewer.
The search yielded 2123 studies and 49 were included for data extraction. The findings reveal that a global surge of studies on mHealth apps for people with stroke have emerged within the past 2 years. Most studies were developed for persons with stroke in the United States and the primary content foci included upper extremity function (31.5%); lower extremity function (5.3%); general exercise, physical activity, and/or functional mobility (23.7%); trunk control (5.3%); medical management and secondary prevention (26.3%); language and speech skills (20.5%); cognitive skills (7.9%); general disability and activities of daily living (5.3%); and home safety (2.6%). Of the included studies, a majority were preliminary in nature, with 36.7% being categorized as pilot or feasibility trials and 24.4% discussing initial design, development, and/or refinement.
Results from this study reveal that the number of apps specifically developed for people with stroke and described in the scientific literature are growing exponentially. The apps have widely varied content to meet the needs of persons with stroke; however, the studies are generally preliminary in nature, focusing on development, usability, and initial pilot testing. This review highlights the need for additional research and development of mHealth apps targeted for adults with stroke. Development should consider the various and complex needs of people living with the effects of chronic stroke, while large-scale trials are needed to build on the existing evidence.