The Potential of Mobile Apps for Improving Asthma Self-Management: A Review of Publicly Available and Well-Adopted Asthma Apps

  • Tinschert P
  • Jakob R
  • Barata F
  • et al.
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BACKGROUND Effective disease self-management lowers asthma's burden of disease for both individual patients and health care systems. In principle, mobile health (mHealth) apps could enable effective asthma self-management interventions that improve a patient's quality of life while simultaneously reducing the overall treatment costs for health care systems. However, prior reviews in this field have found that mHealth apps for asthma lack clinical evaluation and are often not based on medical guidelines. Yet, beyond the missing evidence for clinical efficacy, little is known about the potential apps might have for improving asthma self-management. OBJECTIVE The aim of this study was to assess the potential of publicly available and well-adopted mHealth apps for improving asthma self-management. METHODS The Apple App store and Google Play store were systematically searched for asthma apps. In total, 523 apps were identified, of which 38 apps matched the selection criteria to be included in the review. Four requirements of app potential were investigated: app functions, potential to change behavior (by means of a behavior change technique taxonomy), potential to promote app use (by means of a gamification components taxonomy), and app quality (by means of the Mobile Application Rating Scale [MARS]). RESULTS The most commonly implemented functions in the 38 reviewed asthma apps were tracking (30/38, 79%) and information (26/38, 68%) functions, followed by assessment (20/38, 53%) and notification (18/38, 47%) functions. On average, the reviewed apps applied 7.12 of 26 available behavior change techniques (standard deviation [SD]=4.46) and 4.89 of 31 available gamification components (SD=4.21). Average app quality was acceptable (mean=3.17/5, SD=0.58), whereas subjective app quality lied between poor and acceptable (mean=2.65/5, SD=0.87). Additionally, the sum scores of all review frameworks were significantly correlated (lowest correlation: r36=.33, P=.04 between number of functions and gamification components; highest correlation: r36=.80, P<.001 between number of behavior change techniques and gamification components), which suggests that an app's potential tends to be consistent across review frameworks. CONCLUSIONS Several apps were identified that performed consistently well across all applied review frameworks, thus indicating the potential mHealth apps offer for improving asthma self-management. However, many apps suffer from low quality. Therefore, app reviews should be considered as a decision support tool before deciding which app to integrate into a patient's asthma self-management. Furthermore, several research-practice gaps were identified that app developers should consider addressing in future asthma apps.




Tinschert, P., Jakob, R., Barata, F., Kramer, J.-N., & Kowatsch, T. (2017). The Potential of Mobile Apps for Improving Asthma Self-Management: A Review of Publicly Available and Well-Adopted Asthma Apps. JMIR MHealth and UHealth, 5(8), e113.

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