mHealth Research Daily with Tim Bredrup

While interest in mHealth applications for self-management of diabetes is growing, research on both the design and the use of these applications is scarce and the potential influence of social media is largely unexplored.  To address these issues, a recent study in Norway compared the features of approximately 290 mobile applications for diabetes care to clinical guideline recommendations for diabetes self-management.

Researchers involved in the study searched online vendor markets (app stores for Apple’s iPhone, Google’s Android, BlackBerry, and Nokia Symbian), journal databases, and gray literature (technical reports, blogs and portals) for diabetes mobile applications.  Apps featuring components for the self-monitoring of blood glucose were included, and apps without English-language user interfaces and those intended exclusively for health care professionals were excluded.

Specific app features that the researchers assessed were:

(1) self-monitoring (of blood glucose, weight, physical activity, diet, insulin and medication, and 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.

The prevalence of these features was then compared with guideline recommendations published by health authorities such as the American Diabetes Association.

According to the study’s research team, the most prevalent features of the diabetes apps reviewed were as follows:

  • Data export and communication (60%)
  • Diet recording (47%)
  • Weight management (43%)
  • Literature Search
  • PHR or Web server synchronization (69%)
  • Insulin and medication recording (65%)
  • Diet recording (65%)
  • Data export and communication (62%)

The researchers noted that clinical guidelines widely referred to the importance of education, but this was missing from the top functionalities of the apps.

The study results demonstrated that although there are many diabetes apps that offer a plethora of features, there are still gaps between the evidence-based recommendations and the functionality used in study interventions or found in online markets.

Furthermore, personalized education was confirmed as an underrepresented feature in diabetes mobile applications. No studies were found evaluating social media concepts in diabetes self-management on mobile devices, and its potential remains largely unexplored.

Institution: Norwegian Centre for Integrated Care and Telemedicine, University Hospital of North Norway, Tromsø, Norway.

Authors: Chomutare T, Fernandez-Luque L, Arsand E, Hartvigsen G.

Original Abstract: link