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