Effectiveness of Disease-Specific mHealth Apps in Patients With Diabetes Mellitus: Scoping Review

JMIR Mhealth Uhealth. 2021 Feb 15;9(2):e23477. doi: 10.2196/23477.


Background: According to the World Health Organization, the worldwide prevalence of diabetes mellitus (DM) is increasing dramatically and DM comprises a large part of the global burden of disease. At the same time, the ongoing digitalization that is occurring in society today offers novel possibilities to deal with this challenge, such as the creation of mobile health (mHealth) apps. However, while a great variety of DM-specific mHealth apps exist, the evidence in terms of their clinical effectiveness is still limited.

Objective: The objective of this review was to evaluate the clinical effectiveness of mHealth apps in DM management by analyzing health-related outcomes in patients diagnosed with type 1 DM (T1DM), type 2 DM (T2DM), and gestational DM.

Methods: A scoping review was performed. A systematic literature search was conducted in MEDLINE (PubMed), Cochrane Library, EMBASE, CINAHL, and Web of Science Core Collection databases for studies published between January 2008 and October 2020. The studies were categorized by outcomes and type of DM. In addition, we carried out a meta-analysis to determine the impact of DM-specific mHealth apps on the management of glycated hemoglobin (HbA1c).

Results: In total, 27 studies comprising 2887 patients were included. We analyzed 19 randomized controlled trials, 1 randomized crossover trial, 1 exploratory study, 1 observational study, and 5 pre-post design studies. Overall, there was a clear improvement in HbA1c values in patients diagnosed with T1DM and T2DM. In addition, positive tendencies toward improved self-care and self-efficacy as a result of mHealth app use were found. The meta-analysis revealed an effect size, compared with usual care, of a mean difference of -0.54% (95% CI -0.8 to -0.28) for T2DM and -0.63% (95% CI -0.93 to -0.32) for T1DM.

Conclusions: DM-specific mHealth apps improved the glycemic control by significantly reducing HbA1c values in patients with T1DM and T2DM patients. In general, mHealth apps effectively enhanced DM management. However, further research in terms of clinical effectiveness needs to be done in greater detail.

Keywords: diabetes mellitus; mHealth apps; medical apps; mobile apps.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2* / epidemiology
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2* / therapy
  • Glycated Hemoglobin
  • Humans
  • Mobile Applications*
  • Observational Studies as Topic
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Self Care
  • Telemedicine*


  • Glycated Hemoglobin A