Background: Hypertension is a chronic disease that is considered to be a public health problem and requires efforts by patients to manage themselves. The global growth in the use of mobile phones and tablets has been accompanied by the increased use of health apps. Many of these apps support the self-management of hypertension and, therefore, they have the potential benefits of lowering blood pressure. Despite this, there is currently a lack of evidence for their effectiveness, usability, and patient satisfaction with their use.
Objective: A systematic review was conducted to assess the effectiveness of apps in lowering blood pressure, as well as their usability and patients' satisfaction with their use.
Methods: We conducted searches in the following databases: MEDLINE (OVID), EMBASE (OVID), PsycINFO (OVID), CINAHL, the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL, The Cochrane Library), IEEE Xplore ASSIAN, Google Scholar and the main Arabic databases Al Manhal, AskZad, and Mandumah. We looked for studies that used apps in the self-management of hypertension from 2008-2016. We also checked the reference lists of the review papers and all the primary studies for additional references.
Results: A total of 21 studies with a total of 3112 participants were included in the review. Of the 14 studies that assessed the effectiveness of the apps in lowering blood pressure, 10 (71.4%) studies (6 RCTs and 4 nonrandomized studies) reported that using the apps led to significant decreases in blood pressure and seemed to be effective in the self-management of hypertension. Of these 10, only 2 (20%) RCTs and 3 (30%) nonrandomized studies had a low-moderate risk of bias. The results of this review are inconclusive regarding which combinations of functionalities would be most effective in lowering blood pressure because of variation in the studies' quality, but the data suggest that apps incorporating more comprehensive functionalities are likely to be more effective. In all the studies that assessed the usability of the apps and users' acceptance of them, all the apps seemed to be accepted and easy to use.
Conclusions: Most of the studies reported that apps might be effective in lowering blood pressure and are accepted by users. However, these findings should be interpreted with caution, as most of the studies had a high risk of bias. More well-designed, large-scale studies are required to evaluate the real effect of using apps in lowering blood pressure and to identify the most effective functionality combinations for lowering blood pressure.
Keywords: blood pressure; hypertension; mobile app; mobile application; mobile phone; self-management.
©Tourkiah Alessa, Sarah Abdi, Mark S Hawley, Luc de Witte. Originally published in JMIR Mhealth and Uhealth (http://mhealth.jmir.org), 23.07.2018.