The use of behavior change theory in Internet-based asthma self-management interventions: a systematic review

J Med Internet Res. 2015 Apr 2;17(4):e89. doi: 10.2196/jmir.4110.


Background: The high prevalence rate of asthma represents a major societal burden. Advancements in information technology continue to affect the delivery of patient care in all areas of medicine. Internet-based solutions, social media, and mobile technology could address some of the problems associated with increasing asthma prevalence.

Objective: This review evaluates Internet-based asthma interventions that were published between 2004 and October 2014 with respect to the use of behavioral change theoretical frameworks, applied clinical guidelines, and assessment tools.

Methods: The search term (Asthma AND [Online or Internet or Mobile or Application or eHealth or App]) was applied to six bibliographic databases (Ovid MEDLINE, PubMed, BioMed Central, ProQuest Computing, Web of Knowledge, and ACM Digital Library) including only English-language articles published between 2004 and October 2014. In total, 3932 articles matched the priori search terms and were reviewed by the primary reviewer based on their titles, index terms, and abstracts. The matching articles were then screened by the primary reviewer for inclusion or exclusion based on their abstract, study type, and intervention objectives with respect to the full set of priori inclusion and exclusion criteria; 331 duplicates were identified and removed. A total of 85 articles were included for in-depth review and the remaining 3516 articles were excluded. The primary and secondary reviewer independently reviewed the complete content of the 85 included articles to identify the applied behavioral change theories, clinical guidelines, and assessment tools. Findings and any disagreement between reviewers were resolved by in-depth discussion and through a consolidation process for each of the included articles.

Results: The reviewers identified 17 out of 85 interventions (20%) where at least one model, framework, and/or construct of a behavioral change theory were applied. The review identified six clinical guidelines that were applied across 30 of the 85 interventions (35%) as well as a total of 21 assessment tools that were applied across 32 of the 85 interventions (38%).

Conclusions: The findings of this literature review indicate that the majority of published Internet-based interventions do not use any documented behavioral change theory, clinical guidelines, and/or assessment tools to inform their design. Further, it was found that the application of clinical guidelines and assessment tools were more salient across the reviewed interventions. A consequence, as such, is that many Internet-based asthma interventions are designed in an ad hoc manner, without the use of any notable evidence-based theoretical frameworks, clinical guidelines, and/or assessment tools.

Keywords: Internet; asthma; eHealth, mHealth; mobile health; review; self-care; self-management; telehealth; telemedicine.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Asthma / therapy*
  • Health Behavior*
  • Humans
  • Internet*
  • Self Care*