mHealth: What’s needed?

shutterstock_188507768In a recent paper published in Circulation, Burke et al. (2015) reviewed mHealth (mobile health technology) tools that are currently available to consumers for the purpose of cardiovascular disease prevention. Here are some noteworthy points, most of which highlight the field’s infancy:

1. Ironically, most empirically developed apps are not available to consumers, and most commercially-available apps have not been tested scientifically.

2. Of those empirically-tested, most have (i) focused on efficacy and little is known regarding strategies to enhance user engagement and retention, (ii) been evaluated with motivated individuals, thus potentially exaggerating reported effectiveness, and (iii) employed pre-post studies without control groups, justifying the need for more methodologically rigorous designs, such as randomized controlled trials.

3. The majority of mHealth tools are lacking theoretically and few include empirically-supported strategies to facilitate behavior change.

4. Little is known regarding consumers’ preferences regarding mHealth modality (e.g., web-based, email, text message) and research is needed to determine if preference is influenced by consumers’ sociodemographic factors, which may in turn impact effectiveness and usability of mHealth interventions.

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