Can mHealth stand up to peer-reviewed scrutiny?

Sure wearable devices and mobile apps are popular, but do they actually make a difference from a clinical perspective? Three studies tackled that very question.


1. Blood Sugar Control

Effect of mobile phone intervention for diabetes on glycaemic control: a meta-analysis.

Glucose control is a central theme in the lives of patients with diabetes. A diabetes diagnosis introduces the daunting prospect of a new daily routine that must be followed forever. The Department of Evidence-Based Medicine and Division of Population Genetics at the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences put together a meta-analysis of research that examined the effect of mobile phone intervention on glucose control in diabetes self management.


mHealth = lower A1C

The results of examining 1,657 participants showed that mobile phone interventions for diabetes self-management reduced HbA(1c) values by 6 mmol/mol.  Further analysis showed that the greatest reductions occurred among Type II patients vs Type I patients. 


2. Recovery from Surgery

Functional Recovery in the Elderly After Major Surgery: Assessment of Mobility Recovery Using Wireless Technology

Without a properly executed recovery plan, heart surgery can result in a permanent loss of health and mobility, particularly for the elderly.  To study the relationship between physical activity and recovery time, Mayo Clinic researchers equipped roughly 150 heart-surgery patients with FitBit smart pedometers attached to their ankles. 


mHealth = greater insights about recovery 

The study found that the more steps a patient took, the faster their recovery time, and the sooner they were able to go home. 

According to the researchers:

"Although it is obvious that patients who recover mobility sooner are likely to have better outcomes, it is critical in the face of changing demographics and financial rules that we measure functional measures of recovery for individuals and populations”


3. Physical Activity

Increasing physical activity with mobile devices: a meta-analysis.

Roughly 50% of American adults do not get the recommended amount of regular physical activity and 26% are essentially completely inactive. Inactivity drives the risk of developing high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, certain types of cancer, and osteoporosis.  The Department of Kinesiology and Community Health at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. 

mHealth = more steps, less weight

According to the researchers:

"Research utilizing mobile devices is gaining in popularity, and this study suggests that this platform is an effective means for influencing physical activity behavior. Our focus must be on the best possible use of these tools to measure and understand behavior. Therefore, theoretically grounded behavior change interventions that recognize and act on the potential of smartphone technology could provide investigators with an effective tool for increasing physical activity."