Background: Engagement is essential for the effectiveness of digital behavior change interventions. Existing systematic reviews examining hypertension self-management interventions via mobile apps have primarily focused on intervention efficacy and app usability. Engagement in the prevention or management of hypertension is largely unknown.
Objective: This systematic review explores the definition and role of engagement in hypertension-focused mobile health (mHealth) interventions, as well as how determinants of engagement (ie, tailoring and interactivity) have been implemented.
Methods: A systematic review of mobile app interventions for hypertension self-management targeting adults, published from 2013 to 2020, was conducted. A total of 21 studies were included in this systematic review.
Results: The engagement was defined or operationalized as a microlevel concept, operationalized as interaction with the interventions (ie, frequency of engagement, time or duration of engagement with the program, and intensity of engagement). For all 3 studies that tested the relationship, increased engagement was associated with better biomedical outcomes (eg, blood pressure change). Interactivity was limited in digital behavior change interventions, as only 7 studies provided 2-way communication between users and a health care professional, and 9 studies provided 1-way communication in possible critical conditions; that is, when abnormal blood pressure values were recorded, users or health care professionals were notified. The tailoring of interventions varied at different aspects, from the tailoring of intervention content (including goals, patient education, advice and feedback from health professionals, reminders, and motivational messages) to the tailoring of intervention dose and communication mode. Tailoring was carried out in a number of ways, considering patient characteristics such as goals, preferences, disease characteristics (eg, hypertension stage and medication list), disease self-management experience levels, medication adherence rate, and values and beliefs.
Conclusions: Available studies support the importance of engagement in intervention effectiveness as well as the essential roles of patient factors in tailoring, interactivity, and engagement. A patient-centered engagement framework for hypertension self-management using mHealth technology is proposed here, with the intent of facilitating intervention design and disease self-management using mHealth technology.
Keywords: digital behavior change; engagement; hypertension; interactivity; interventions; mHealth; mobile app; mobile phone; systematic review; tailoring.
©Weidan Cao, M Wesley Milks, Xiaofu Liu, Megan E Gregory, Daniel Addison, Ping Zhang, Lang Li. Originally published in JMIR mHealth and uHealth (https://mhealth.jmir.org), 02.03.2022.