To study the impact of mHealth interventions on chronic diseases management: A systematic overview of systematic reviews protocol

Wafa Elamin, Dorothy Hannis, Lawrence Nnyanzi, Louisa Ells

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Digital health is the convergence of technology with healthcare delivery and is a new field in public health and clinical medicine. It is the use of information and communications technologies to improve human health and healthcare services.1 There has been increased adoption of health care technologies by the general public in recent years.2 This was made possible with the advent of mobile technology, fast broadband, 4G internet and the falling price of technology devices. Digital health can be used for point-of-care support, emergency medical responses, reminders for clinical appointments, reporting test results, health promotion, data collection for research, real-time data streaming, disease modelling, personalised care, and public health interventions.1 Numerous modalities for digital communication exist such as smartphones and computers with two-way cameras, web-based portals, e-mails, interactive voice response, social media platforms, online forums and personal monitoring devices.3

These modalities have been adapted to provide different types of digital health technologies that have overlapping roles in delivering healthcare. The major modalities that patients use within their homes include telehealthcare and mHealth. Telehealthcare leverages telecommunication, video imaging, and information technologies. It enables health care practitioners to provide medical services virtually. Telehealthcare can address social, cultural and geographical inequalities in healthcare delivery through non-encounter communication.4 It has been especially useful for remote monitoring of elderly patients within their homes.5

mHealth, on the other hand, is concerned with the role of mobile technology in delivering health services.6 mHealth uses mobile applications or short message services (SMS) to reach and engage with patients remotely. mHealth interventions are mobile and popular, providing novel long-term disease management solutions for patients.7, 8 However, they are not without their challenges. Many mHealth technologies require an internet connection to operate fully. While the use of technology has dramatically increased worldwide in recent years, as of 2017, only 64.5% of the global population own a mobile phone while less than 50% have access to internet services.9 These figures are concerning as disadvantaged groups may not be able to engage with digital health interventions. Health economists have highlighted that access to the internet services and its content depends on five factors: affordability, availability, accessibility, accommodation and acceptability.10 As with other health care services, mHealth interventions must be readily available and accessible to the patients who need them most and offered at a price they can afford. Without maintaining this balance, health inequalities will arise from mHealth technologies. If widespread access is achieved, digital health interventions may solve critical public health dilemmas such as chronic and non-communicable diseases prevention and management.

Chronic and non-communicable diseases account for the largest group of public health issues in the European region11 and cost the European Union countries 115 billion euros collectively each year.12 The most frequently targeted chronic and non-communicable diseases include type 2 diabetes, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), cardiovascular diseases, cancer, and mental health problems.13 Without adherence to management plans, these diseases and illnesses gravely affect patients’ quality of life.14, 15 Innovative and cost-effective solutions, that allow patients to self-manage illnesses are urgently needed to solve these issues and lessen the financial burden on healthcare systems worldwide.

Evidence suggests that mHealth technologies produce mixed clinical outcomes for patients in the management of chronic and non-communicable conditions.14, 15, 16, 17 A systematic overview of systematic reviews is needed to investigate the benefit of mHealth interventions for chronic disease prevention and management. To the best of our knowledge, this study will be the first to do so.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)17-20
JournalClinical eHealth
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 17 Aug 2018


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