The use of mobile applications to support self-management for people with asthma: a systematic review of controlled studies to identify features associated with clinical effectiveness and adherence

J Am Med Inform Assoc. 2017 May 1;24(3):619-632. doi: 10.1093/jamia/ocw143.


Objectives: Telehealth is promoted as a strategy to support self-management of long-term conditions. The aim of this systematic review is to identify which information and communication technology features implemented in mobile apps to support asthma self-management are associated with adoption, adherence to usage, and clinical effectiveness.

Methods: We systematically searched 9 databases, scanned reference lists, and undertook manual searches (January 2000 to April 2016). We include randomized controlled trials (RCTs) and quasiexperimental studies with adults. All eligible papers were assessed for quality, and we extracted data on the features included, health-related outcomes (asthma control, exacerbation rate), process/intermediate outcomes (adherence to monitoring or treatment, self-efficacy), and level of adoption of and adherence to use of technology. Meta-analysis and narrative synthesis were used.

Results: We included 12 RCTs employing a range of technologies. A meta-analysis (n = 3) showed improved asthma control (mean difference -0.25 [95% CI, -0.37 to -0.12]). Included studies incorporated 10 features grouped into 7 categories (education, monitoring/electronic diary, action plans, medication reminders/prompts, facilitating professional support, raising patient awareness of asthma control, and decision support for professionals). The most successful interventions included multiple features, but effects on health-related outcomes were inconsistent. No studies explicitly reported adoption of and adherence to the technology system.

Conclusion: Meta-analysis of data from 3 trials showed improved asthma control, though overall the clinical effectiveness of apps, typically incorporating multiple features, varied. Further studies are needed to identify the features that are associated with adoption of and adherence to use of the mobile app and those that improve health outcomes.

Keywords: asthma; medical informatics; mobile application; self-management; telemedicine.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Asthma / therapy*
  • Databases as Topic
  • Humans
  • Mobile Applications*
  • Self Care
  • Self-Management*
  • Telemedicine