Does mHealth contribute to improved care for people with non-communicable diseases in developing countries?

A systematic review of randomized controlled trials

Size: 72 pages
Format: 21,0 x 29,7 cm
Publishing year: 2015
ISBN 978-3-7983-2752-8

Background: mHealth refers to the use of mobile phones for health care and public health practice. The reasons of deaths in developing countries are shifting from communicable diseases towards non-communicable diseases (NCDs). We review studies assessing the health-related impacts of mobile health (mHealth) on NCDs in low- and middle- income countries (LAMICs) with the aim of giving recommendations for their further development.

Methods: A systematic literature search of three major databases was performed in order to identify randomized controlled trials (RCTs) of mHealth interventions. Identified RCTs were reviewed concerning effects of the interventions on health-related outcomes.

Results: The search algorithms retrieved 733 titles. 6 RCTs were included in the review, including a total of 1850 participants. MHealth was found to have positively influenced clinical outcomes, compliance rates, as well as quality of life related aspects. Furthermore, other outcomes such as patients’ anxiety or patient-physician trust improved significantly. We also found that tailored interventions using a single service for the transmission (e.?g. only SMS) showed the most positive effect. Limiting factors of the evaluation however, were the few numbers of RCTs, the heterogeneity of outcome measures and the fact that all included studies were conducted in middle income countries and mostly in urban areas.

Conclusions: Although mHealth is still in its infancy, it can emerge as an important tool for fighting NCDs in LAMICs. Therefore, further support by governmental institutions for coordinating and promoting the development of the required tools, as well as further research especially in low-income economies, with a focus on the evaluation of the long-term effects of mHealth is needed.