App Features for Type 1 Diabetes Support and Patient Empowerment: Systematic Literature Review and Benchmark Comparison
AuthorMartínez-Millana, Antonio; Jarones, Elena; Fernandez-Llatas, Carlos; Hartvigsen, Gunnar; Traver, Vicente
Background: Research in type 1 diabetes management has increased exponentially since the irruption of mobile health apps for its remote and self-management. Despite this fact, the features affect in the disease management and patient empowerment are adopted by app makers and provided to the general population remain unexplored.
Objective: To study the gap between literature and available apps for type 1 diabetes self-management and patient empowerment and to discover the features that an ideal app should provide to people with diabetes.
Methods: The methodology comprises systematic reviews in the scientific literature and app marketplaces. We included articles describing interventions that demonstrated an effect on diabetes management with particular clinical endpoints through the use of mobile technologies. The features of these apps were gathered in a taxonomy of what an ideal app should look like to then assess which of these features are available in the market.
Results: The literature search resulted in 231 matches. Of these, 55 met the inclusion criteria. A taxonomy featuring 3 levels of characteristics was designed based on 5 papers which were selected for the synthesis. Level 1 includes 10 general features (Personalization, Family support, Agenda, Data record, Insulin bolus calculator, Data management, Interaction, Tips and support, Reminders, and Rewards) Level 2 and Level 3 included features providing a descriptive detail of Level 1 features. Eighty apps matching the inclusion criteria were analyzed. None of the assessed apps fulfilled the features of the taxonomy of an ideal app. Personalization (70/80, 87.5%) and Data record (64/80, 80.0%) were the 2 top prevalent features, whereas Agenda (5/80, 6.3%) and Rewards (3/80, 3.8%) where the less predominant. The operating system was not associated with the number of features (P=.42, F=.81) nor the type of feature (P=.20, χ2=11.7). Apps were classified according to the number of level 1 features and sorted into quartiles. First quartile apps had a regular distribution of the ten features in the taxonomy whereas the other 3 quartiles had an irregular distribution.
Conclusions: There are significant gaps between research and the market in mobile health for type 1 diabetes management. While the literature focuses on aspects related to gamification, rewarding, and social communities, the available apps are focused on disease management aspects such as data record and appointments. Personalized and tailored empowerment features should be included in commercial apps for large-scale assessment of potential in the self-management of the disease.