Considerations for the development of mobile phone apps to support diabetes self-management: Systematic review

Mary D. Adu, Usman H. Malabu, Emily J. Callander, Aduli E.O. Malau-Aduli, Bunmi S. Malau-Aduli

Research output: Contribution to journalReview ArticleResearchpeer-review

32 Citations (Scopus)


Background: There is increased research interest in the use of mobile phone apps to support diabetes management. However, there are divergent views on what constitute the minimum standards for inclusion in the development of mobile phone apps. Mobile phone apps require an evidence-based approach to development which will consequently impact on their effectiveness. Therefore, comprehensive information on developmental considerations could help designers and researchers to develop innovative and effective patient-centered self-management mobile phone apps for diabetes patients. Objective: This systematic review examined the developmental considerations adopted in trials that engaged mobile phone applications for diabetes self-management. Methods: A comprehensive search strategy was implemented across 5 electronic databases; Medline, Scopus, Social Science Citation Index, the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials and Cumulative Index of Nursing and Allied Health Literature (CINALHL) and supplemented by reference list from identified studies. Study quality was evaluated using the Joanna Briggs Critical appraisal checklist for trials. Information on developmental factors (health behavioral theory, functionality, pilot testing, user and clinical expert involvements, data privacy and app security) were assessed across experimental studies using a template developed for the review. Results: A total of 11 studies (10 randomized controlled trials and 1 quasi-experimental trial) that fitted the inclusion criteria were identified. All the included studies had the functionality of self-monitoring of blood glucose. However, only some of them included functions for data analytics (7/11, 63.6%), education (6/11, 54.5%) and reminder (6/11, 54.5%). There were 5/11(45.5%) studies with significantly improved glycosylated hemoglobin in the intervention groups where educational functionality was present in the apps used in the 5 trials. Only 1 (1/11, 9.1%) study considered health behavioral theory and user involvement, while 2 (2/11, 18.1%) other studies reported the involvement of clinical experts in the development of their apps. There were 4 (4/11, 36.4%) studies which referred to data security and privacy considerations during their app development while 7 (7/12, 63.6%) studies provided information on pilot testing of apps before use in the full trial. Overall, none of the studies provided information on all developmental factors assessed in the review. Conclusions: There is a lack of elaborate and detailed information in the literature regarding the factors considered in the development of apps used as interventions for diabetes self-management. Documentation and inclusion of such vital information will foster a transparent and shared decision-making process that will ultimately lead to the development of practical and user-friendly self-management apps that can enhance the quality of life for diabetes patients.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere10115
Number of pages13
JournalJMIR mHealth and uHealth
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 21 Jun 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Developmental consideration
  • Diabetes melitus
  • Mobile phone apps
  • Self-management
  • Systematic review

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