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      Mapping mHealth Research: A Decade of Evolution

      , PhD , 1 , , PhD 1 , , PhD 1

      (Reviewer), (Reviewer)

      Journal of Medical Internet Research

      JMIR Publications Inc.

      mHealth, systematic review, health outcomes

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          Abstract

          Background

          For the last decade, mHealth has constantly expanded as a part of eHealth. Mobile applications for health have the potential to target heterogeneous audiences and address specific needs in different situations, with diverse outcomes, and to complement highly developed health care technologies. The market is rapidly evolving, making countless new mobile technologies potentially available to the health care system; however, systematic research on the impact of these technologies on health outcomes remains scarce.

          Objective

          To provide a comprehensive view of the field of mHealth research to date and to understand whether and how the new generation of smartphones has triggered research, since their introduction 5 years ago. Specifically, we focused on studies aiming to evaluate the impact of mobile phones on health, and we sought to identify the main areas of health care delivery where mobile technologies can have an impact.

          Methods

          A systematic literature review was conducted on the impact of mobile phones and smartphones in health care. Abstracts and articles were categorized using typologies that were partly adapted from existing literature and partly created inductively from publications included in the review.

          Results

          The final sample consisted of 117 articles published between 2002 and 2012. The majority of them were published in the second half of our observation period, with a clear upsurge between 2007 and 2008, when the number of articles almost doubled. The articles were published in 77 different journals, mostly from the field of medicine or technology and medicine. Although the range of health conditions addressed was very wide, a clear focus on chronic conditions was noted. The research methodology of these studies was mostly clinical trials and pilot studies, but new designs were introduced in the second half of our observation period. The size of the samples drawn to test mobile health applications also increased over time. The majority of the studies tested basic mobile phone features (eg, text messaging), while only a few assessed the impact of smartphone apps. Regarding the investigated outcomes, we observed a shift from assessment of the technology itself to assessment of its impact. The outcome measures used in the studies were mostly clinical, including both self-reported and objective measures.

          Conclusions

          Research interest in mHealth is growing, together with an increasing complexity in research designs and aim specifications, as well as a diversification of the impact areas. However, new opportunities offered by new mobile technologies do not seem to have been explored thus far. Mapping the evolution of the field allows a better understanding of its strengths and weaknesses and can inform future developments.

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          Most cited references 115

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          Harnessing Context Sensing to Develop a Mobile Intervention for Depression

          Background Mobile phone sensors can be used to develop context-aware systems that automatically detect when patients require assistance. Mobile phones can also provide ecological momentary interventions that deliver tailored assistance during problematic situations. However, such approaches have not yet been used to treat major depressive disorder. Objective The purpose of this study was to investigate the technical feasibility, functional reliability, and patient satisfaction with Mobilyze!, a mobile phone- and Internet-based intervention including ecological momentary intervention and context sensing. Methods We developed a mobile phone application and supporting architecture, in which machine learning models (ie, learners) predicted patients’ mood, emotions, cognitive/motivational states, activities, environmental context, and social context based on at least 38 concurrent phone sensor values (eg, global positioning system, ambient light, recent calls). The website included feedback graphs illustrating correlations between patients’ self-reported states, as well as didactics and tools teaching patients behavioral activation concepts. Brief telephone calls and emails with a clinician were used to promote adherence. We enrolled 8 adults with major depressive disorder in a single-arm pilot study to receive Mobilyze! and complete clinical assessments for 8 weeks. Results Promising accuracy rates (60% to 91%) were achieved by learners predicting categorical contextual states (eg, location). For states rated on scales (eg, mood), predictive capability was poor. Participants were satisfied with the phone application and improved significantly on self-reported depressive symptoms (betaweek = –.82, P < .001, per-protocol Cohen d = 3.43) and interview measures of depressive symptoms (betaweek = –.81, P < .001, per-protocol Cohen d = 3.55). Participants also became less likely to meet criteria for major depressive disorder diagnosis (bweek = –.65, P = .03, per-protocol remission rate = 85.71%). Comorbid anxiety symptoms also decreased (betaweek = –.71, P < .001, per-protocol Cohen d = 2.58). Conclusions Mobilyze! is a scalable, feasible intervention with preliminary evidence of efficacy. To our knowledge, it is the first ecological momentary intervention for unipolar depression, as well as one of the first attempts to use context sensing to identify mental health-related states. Several lessons learned regarding technical functionality, data mining, and software development process are discussed. Trial Registration Clinicaltrials.gov NCT01107041; http://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT01107041 (Archived by WebCite at http://www.webcitation.org/60CVjPH0n)
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            Features of Mobile Diabetes Applications: Review of the Literature and Analysis of Current Applications Compared Against Evidence-Based Guidelines

            Background Interest in mobile health (mHealth) applications for self-management of diabetes is growing. In July 2009, we found 60 diabetes applications on iTunes for iPhone; by February 2011 the number had increased by more than 400% to 260. Other mobile platforms reflect a similar trend. Despite the growth, research on both the design and the use of diabetes mHealth applications is scarce. Furthermore, the potential influence of social media on diabetes mHealth applications is largely unexplored. Objective Our objective was to study the salient features of mobile applications for diabetes care, in contrast to clinical guideline recommendations for diabetes self-management. These clinical guidelines are published by health authorities or associations such as the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence in the United Kingdom and the American Diabetes Association. Methods We searched online vendor markets (online stores for Apple iPhone, Google Android, BlackBerry, and Nokia Symbian), journal databases, and gray literature related to diabetes mobile applications. We included applications that featured a component for self-monitoring of blood glucose and excluded applications without English-language user interfaces, as well as those intended exclusively for health care professionals. We surveyed the following features: (1) self-monitoring: (1.1) blood glucose, (1.2) weight, (1.3) physical activity, (1.4) diet, (1.5) insulin and medication, and (1.6) blood pressure, (2) education, (3) disease-related alerts and reminders, (4) integration of social media functions, (5) disease-related data export and communication, and (6) synchronization with personal health record (PHR) systems or patient portals. We then contrasted the prevalence of these features with guideline recommendations. Results The search resulted in 973 matches, of which 137 met the selection criteria. The four most prevalent features of the applications available on the online markets (n = 101) were (1) insulin and medication recording, 63 (62%), (2) data export and communication, 61 (60%), (3) diet recording, 47 (47%), and (4) weight management, 43 (43%). From the literature search (n = 26), the most prevalent features were (1) PHR or Web server synchronization, 18 (69%), (2) insulin and medication recording, 17 (65%), (3) diet recording, 17 (65%), and (4) data export and communication, 16 (62%). Interestingly, although clinical guidelines widely refer to the importance of education, this is missing from the top functionalities in both cases. Conclusions While a wide selection of mobile applications seems to be available for people with diabetes, this study shows there are obvious gaps between the evidence-based recommendations and the functionality used in study interventions or found in online markets. Current results confirm personalized education as an underrepresented feature in diabetes mobile applications. We found no studies evaluating social media concepts in diabetes self-management on mobile devices, and its potential remains largely unexplored.
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              The effectiveness of M-health technologies for improving health and health services: a systematic review protocol

              Background The application of mobile computing and communication technology is rapidly expanding in the fields of health care and public health. This systematic review will summarise the evidence for the effectiveness of mobile technology interventions for improving health and health service outcomes (M-health) around the world. Findings To be included in the review interventions must aim to improve or promote health or health service use and quality, employing any mobile computing and communication technology. This includes: (1) interventions designed to improve diagnosis, investigation, treatment, monitoring and management of disease; (2) interventions to deliver treatment or disease management programmes to patients, health promotion interventions, and interventions designed to improve treatment compliance; and (3) interventions to improve health care processes e.g. appointment attendance, result notification, vaccination reminders. A comprehensive, electronic search strategy will be used to identify controlled studies, published since 1990, and indexed in MEDLINE, EMBASE, PsycINFO, Global Health, Web of Science, the Cochrane Library, or the UK NHS Health Technology Assessment database. The search strategy will include terms (and synonyms) for the following mobile electronic devices (MEDs) and a range of compatible media: mobile phone; personal digital assistant (PDA); handheld computer (e.g. tablet PC); PDA phone (e.g. BlackBerry, Palm Pilot); Smartphone; enterprise digital assistant; portable media player (i.e. MP3 or MP4 player); handheld video game console. No terms for health or health service outcomes will be included, to ensure that all applications of mobile technology in public health and health services are identified. Bibliographies of primary studies and review articles meeting the inclusion criteria will be searched manually to identify further eligible studies. Data on objective and self-reported outcomes and study quality will be independently extracted by two review authors. Where there are sufficient numbers of similar interventions, we will calculate and report pooled risk ratios or standardised mean differences using meta-analysis. Discussion This systematic review will provide recommendations on the use of mobile computing and communication technology in health care and public health and will guide future work on intervention development and primary research in this field.
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                Author and article information

                Contributors
                Journal
                J Med Internet Res
                JMIR
                Journal of Medical Internet Research
                JMIR Publications Inc. (Toronto, Canada )
                1439-4456
                1438-8871
                May 2013
                21 May 2013
                : 15
                : 5
                Affiliations
                1Institute of Communication and Health Faculty of Communication Sciences University of Lugano LuganoSwitzerland
                Author notes
                Corresponding Author: Maddalena Fiordelli maddalena.fiordelli@ 123456usi.ch
                Article
                v15i5e95
                10.2196/jmir.2430
                3668610
                23697600
                ©Maddalena Fiordelli, Nicola Diviani, Peter J. Schulz. Originally published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research (http://www.jmir.org), 21.05.2013.

                This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work, first published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, is properly cited. The complete bibliographic information, a link to the original publication on http://www.jmir.org/, as well as this copyright and license information must be included.

                Categories
                Review

                Medicine

                health outcomes, mhealth, systematic review

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