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mHealth Apps Using Behavior Change Techniques to Self-report Data: Systematic Review

HumanInsight mHealth Apps Using Behavior Change Techniques to Self-report Data: Systematic Review

JMIR Mhealth Uhealth. 2022 Sep 9;10(9):e33247. doi: 10.2196/33247.


BACKGROUND: The popularization of mobile health (mHealth) apps for public health or medical care purposes has transformed human life substantially, improving lifestyle behaviors and chronic condition management.

OBJECTIVE: This review aimed to identify behavior change techniques (BCTs) commonly used in mHealth, assess their effectiveness based on the evidence reported in interventions and reviews to highlight the most appropriate techniques to design an optimal strategy to improve adherence to data reporting, and provide recommendations for future interventions and research.

METHODS: We performed a systematic review of studies published between 2010 and 2021 in relevant scientific databases to identify and analyze mHealth interventions using BCTs that evaluated their effectiveness in terms of user adherence. Search terms included a mix of general (eg, data, information, and adherence), computer science (eg, mHealth and BCTs), and medicine (eg, personalized medicine) terms.

RESULTS: This systematic review included 24 studies and revealed that the most frequently used BCTs in the studies were feedback and monitoring (n=20), goals and planning (n=14), associations (n=14), shaping knowledge (n=12), and personalization (n=7). However, we found mixed effectiveness of the techniques in mHealth outcomes, having more effective than ineffective outcomes in the evaluation of apps implementing techniques from the feedback and monitoring, goals and planning, associations, and personalization categories, but we could not infer causality with the results and suggest that there is still a need to improve the use of these and many common BCTs for better outcomes.

CONCLUSIONS: Personalization, associations, and goals and planning techniques were the most used BCTs in effective trials regarding adherence to mHealth apps. However, they are not necessarily the most effective since there are studies that use these techniques and do not report significant results in the proposed objectives; there is a notable overlap of BCTs within implemented app components, suggesting a need to better understand best practices for applying (a combination of) such techniques and to obtain details on the specific BCTs used in mHealth interventions. Future research should focus on studies with longer follow-up periods to determine the effectiveness of mHealth interventions on behavior change to overcome the limited evidence in the current literature, which has mostly small-sized and single-arm experiments with a short follow-up period.

PMID:36083606 | DOI:10.2196/33247

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