mHealth Needs More Work

Michael Fitzhugh

Despite signs of promise, researchers say more work is needed to establish the usefulness of mobile phones in care, although text messaging showed promise in increasing adherence.

This article published with permission from The Burrill Report.

A pair of reviews of scientific literature evaluating the use of mobile health technology interventions found modest benefits and a need for more high quality, adequately powered trials to evaluate outcomes.

The two reviews, published in PLOS Medicine by authors from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and Imperial College, evaluated the impact of text messages and photos taken with mobile phones to improve diagnosis and health management outcomes.

Trials using mobile technology-based photos reported reductions in correct diagnoses when compared to “gold standard” care, the authors wrote — a finding aligned with a study disparaging the accuracy of smartphone applications for melanoma detection published in JAMA Dermatology.

Text messaging was found to hold more promise, with studies included in the review showing that text-based interventions can increase adherence to antiretroviral regimens and smoking cessation plans while also improving communications between nurses and surgeons. Medical appointment reminders sent by text message showed modest benefits too, the review found.

Taken together, the reviews paint a picture of an active desire by public health and medical researchers across the globe to put mobile technologies to the test.

Mobile technology-based interventions for health care consumers may not be optimal now, say the authors.

“Some are uni-faceted and may need to incorporate additional components found in other effective interventions for self-management of diseases, but modified for delivery by mobile technologies.”

The authors conclude that high-quality trials are needed to better establish that the use of mobile health care technology by doctors improves care.

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