T2DM Self-Management via Smartphone Applications: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis

PLoS One. 2016 Nov 18;11(11):e0166718. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0166718. eCollection 2016.


Background: Mobile health interventions (mHealth) based on smartphone applications (apps) are promising tools to help improve diabetes care and self-management; however, more evidence on the efficacy of mHealth in diabetes care is needed. The objective of this study was to conduct a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) assessing the effect of mHealth apps on changes in hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c), blood glucose, blood pressure, serum lipids, and body weight in type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) patients.

Methods: Two independent reviewers searched three online databases (PubMed, the Cochrane Library, and EMBASE) to identify relevant studies published between January 2005 and June 2016. Of the 2,596 articles retrieved, 13 RCTs were included. We used random effects model to estimate the pooled results.

Results: Thirteen studies were selected for the systematic review, six of which with data available containing 1,022 patients were included for the meta-analysis. There was a moderate effect on glycemic control after the mHealth app-based interventions. The overall effect on HbA1c shown as mean difference (MD) was -0.40% (-4.37 mmol/mol) (95% confidence interval [CI] -0.69 to -0.11% [-7.54 to -1.20 mmol/mol]; p = 0.007) and standardized mean differences (SMD) was -0.40% (-4.37 mmol/mol) (95% confidence interval [CI] -0.69 to -0.10% [-7.54 to -1.09 mmol/mol]; p = 0.008). A subgroup analysis showed a similar effect with -0.33% (-3.61 mmol/mol) (95% CI -0.59 to -0.06% [-6.45 to -0.66 mmol/mol]; p = 0.02) in MD and -0.38% (-4.15 mmol/mol) (95% CI -0.71 to -0.05% [-7.76 to -0.55 mmol/mol]; p = 0.02) in SMD in studies where patients' baseline HbA1c levels were less than 8.0%. No effects of mHealth app interventions were found on blood pressure, serum lipids, or weight. Assessment of overall study quality and publication bias demonstrated a low risk of bias among the six studies.

Conclusions: Smartphone apps offered moderate benefits for T2DM self-management. However, more research with valid study designs and longer follow-up is needed to evaluate the impact of mHealth apps for diabetes care and self-management.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Blood Glucose
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / diagnosis*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / therapy*
  • Glycated Hemoglobin A
  • Humans
  • Patient Outcome Assessment
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Self Care / methods*
  • Smartphone*
  • Telemedicine*


  • Blood Glucose
  • Glycated Hemoglobin A

Grant support

This study was supported by the research grants (to MN) from the Project of National Natural Science Foundation of China (No 81070630, 81270879) (www.nsfc.gov.cn) and National Key Program of Clinical Science (WBYZ2011-873). The funders had played a role in data collection and analysis and decision to publish.