Mobile Health Apps for Self-Management of Rheumatic and Musculoskeletal Diseases: Systematic Literature Review

BACKGROUND:

Although the increasing availability of mobile health (mHealth) apps may enable people with rheumatic and musculoskeletal diseases (RMDs) to better self-manage their health, there is a general lack of evidence on ways to ensure appropriate development and evaluation of apps.

OBJECTIVE:

This study aimed to obtain an overview on existing mHealth apps for self-management in patients with RMDs, focusing on content and development methods.

METHODS:

A search was performed up to December 2017 across 5 databases. For each publication relevant to an app for RMDs, information on the disease, purpose, content, and development strategies was extracted and qualitatively assessed.

RESULTS:

Of 562 abstracts, 32 were included in the analysis. Of these 32 abstracts, 11 (34%) referred to an app linked to a connected device. Most of the apps targeted rheumatoid arthritis (11/32, 34%). The top three aspects addressed by the apps were pain (23/32, 71%), fatigue (15/32, 47%), and physical activity (15/32, 47%). The development process of the apps was described in 84% (27/32) of the articles and was of low to moderate quality in most of the cases. Despite most of the articles having been published within the past two years, only 5 apps were still commercially available at the time of our search. Moreover, only very few studies showed improvement of RMD outcome measures.

CONCLUSIONS:

The development process of most apps was of low or moderate quality in many studies. Owing to the increasing RMD patients’ willingness to use mHealth apps for self-management, optimal standards and quality assurance of new apps are mandatory.

 2019 Nov 26;7(11):e14730. doi: 10.2196/14730.