The scientific evidence is limited on the effectiveness of using mobile health technologies to reduce heart attack and stroke risk factors, and more research is needed, according to a scientific statement by the American Heart Association that was published in the journal Circulation, Health Data Management reports (Slabodkin,Health Data Management, 8/18).
Details of Statement
For the statement, researchers reviewed 69 studies conducted over the last decade on the use of mobile technology in reducing cardiovascular disease risk disease risk factors. The studies addressed:
- Blood glucose management in people with diabetes ;
- Boosting physical activity;
- Lipid management;
- Smoking cessation; and
- Targeted weight loss (Comstock, 8/17)
The researchers found that most of the studies were limited in length and size (Health Data Management, 8/18).
Findings on Weight Loss
Among the weight loss studies, the researchers noted that effective mobile health inventions were comparable to effective online interventions. However, the researchers said that applications and devices that are most commonly used for increasing activity and weight loss were not the most studied (MobiHealthNews, 8/17).
While they found a lack of data about the long-term effects of mobile health on weight loss, the researchers noted that those who used such technology were more successful in the short term than those who tried to lose weight without mobile health.
Findings on Physical Activity
Meanwhile, the researchers found that most studies showed that individuals who used an online program increased their physical activity more than those who did not use such a program.
However, they wrote that “there hasn’t been enough research to show whether wearable physical activity monitoring devices actually help you move more” (Health Data Management, 8/17).
Findings on Smoking Cessation
The researchers found that most studies on smoking cessation pertained to text message interventions (MobiHealthNews, 8/17). They noted that such interventions generally have been found effective for smoking cessation (Versel, MedCity News, 8/17).
However, while text messaging can nearly double the chances that a person will quit smoking, the authors wrote that about 90% of users “fail to quit smoking after six months” (Health Data Management, 8/17).
In addition, the researchers noted that other smartphone functions, such as movement and location sensors, could be used in smoking cessation efforts (MobiHealthNews, 8/17).
The researchers found that there has been little to no research in the U.S. on the relationship between mobile health and several other major cardiovascular disease risk factors, such as:
- Blood pressure;
- Cholesterol; and
- Diabetes (Health Data Management, 8/17).
Among the examined studies, the researchers “found almost no studies that analyzed how products worked or user input in its development,” adding, ” Until such information is available, mobile app developers will continue to face questions and doubts from the public, providers and payers” (MedCity News, 8/17).
Areas for Improvement
Overall, the researchers identified four broad areas for improving mobile health research. They wrote that researchers should:
- Adopt faster research methods to enable results to be completed in a timely manner so that findings remain relevant;
- Apply more rigorous analytic methods;
- Include more diverse study participants; and
- Run studies for longer than six months to confirm long-term effects (MobiHealthNews, 8/17).
Lora Burke, lead author of the AHA statement and professor of nursing and epidemiology at the University of Pittsburgh, advised against “dismiss[ing] the possibility that these devices and apps can help you be heart healthy,” adding, “The fact that mobile health technologies haven’t been fully studied doesn’t mean that they are not effective” (Health Data Management, 8/17).
The researchers wrote, “The responsibility for generating evidence should not fall solely … on the product developers” and called for researchers and the clinical community to “help to generate these needed data” (MobiHealthNews, 8/17).