Nussbaum R, Kelly C, Quinby E, et al. Systematic Review of Mobile Health Applications in Rehabilitation. Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2019 Jan;100(1):115-127. doi: 10.1016/j.apmr.2018.07.439. Epub 2018 Aug 29. (Systematic review)

OBJECTIVE: To conduct systematic review to better define how medical mobile applications (apps) have been used in environments relevant to physical medicine and rehabilitation.


STUDY SELECTION: A 10-year date limit was used, spanning publication dates from June 1, 2006, to June 30, 2016. Terms related to physical medicine and rehabilitation as well as mobile apps were used in 10 individual search strategies.

DATA EXTRACTION: Two investigators screened abstracts and applied inclusion and exclusion criteria. Full-length articles were retrieved. Duplicate articles were removed. If a study met all criteria, the article was reviewed in full.

DATA SYNTHESIS: Specific variables of interest were extracted and added to summary tables. Summary tables were used to categorize studies according themes, and a list of app features was generated.

CONCLUSIONS: The search yielded abstracts from 8116 studies, and 102 studies were included in the systematic review. Approximately one-third of the studies evaluated apps as interventions, and the remaining two-thirds of the studies assessed functioning of the app or participant interaction with the app. Some apps may have positive benefits when used to deliver exercise or gait training interventions, as self-management systems, or as measurement tools.

REGISTRATION: The protocol was registered with the International Prospective Register of Systematic Reviews (PROSPERO) network (no. CRD42016046672).

Discipline Area Score
Rehab Clinician (OT/PT) 6 / 7
Comments from MORE raters

Rehab Clinician (OT/PT) rater

This is a thorough systematic search of the literature. The synthesis, however, was primarily categorization and description of the included studies. The assessment of study quality focused on reporting the various study designs that were retrieved by the review.

Rehab Clinician (OT/PT) rater

The usefulness of the study results is limited by the inclusion of too diverse studies of different Apps for different conditions with varying study qualities.

Rehab Clinician (OT/PT) rater

Based on the increasing popularity of digital health (tele-health) and its ability to reach a larger population that can benefit from services with mobile applications, this article is beneficial. As technology continues to evolve, we as physical therapist will be working with more technology within the patient management model. Creating an evidence based approach on how we use technology is recommended and needs to be further evaluated.

Rehab Clinician (OT/PT) rater

This a very comprehensive systematic review on applications of mHealth solutions to rehabilitation, including MSK rehabilitation. While mHealth systems seem appealing for a wide range of applications in healthcare (e.g., screening, monitoring, coaching, etc.) there is still a paucity of RCTs and cost-effectiveness analysis of these solutions over other forms of care delivery. Excellent review and topic.
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