Methodological challenges in systematic reviews of mHealth interventions: Survey and consensus-based recommendations.

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International Journal of Medical Informatics
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Objective Mobile Health (mHealth) refers to using mobile devices to support health. This study aimed to identify specific methodological challenges in systematic reviews (SRs) of mHealth interventions and to develop guidance for addressing selected challenges. Study Design and Setting: Two-phase participatory research project. First, we sent an online survey to corresponding authors of SRs of mHealth interventions. On a five-category scale, survey respondents rated how challenging they found 24 methodological aspects in SRs of mHealth interventions compared to non-mHealth intervention SRs. Second, a subset of survey respondents participated in an online workshop to discuss recommendations to address the most challenging methodological aspects identified in the survey. Finally, consensus-based recommendations were developed based on the workshop discussion and subsequent interaction via email with the workshop participants and two external mHealth SR authors. Results We contacted 953 corresponding authors of mHealth intervention SRs, of whom 50 (5 %) completed the survey. All the respondents identified at least one methodological aspect as more or much more challenging in mHealth intervention SRs than in non-mHealth SRs. A median of 11 (IQR 7.25–15) out of 24 aspects (46 %) were rated as more or much more challenging. Those most frequently reported were: defining intervention intensity and components (85 %), extracting mHealth intervention details (71 %), dealing with dynamic research with evolving interventions (70 %), assessing intervention integrity (69 %), defining the intervention (66 %) and maintaining an updated review (65 %). Eleven survey respondents participated in the workshop (five had authored more than three mHealth SRs). Eighteen consensus-based recommendations were developed to address issues related to mHealth intervention integrity and to keep mHealth SRs up to date. Conclusion mHealth SRs present specific methodological challenges compared to non-mHealth interventions, particularly related to intervention integrity and keeping SRs current. Our recommendations for addressing these challenges can improve mHealth SRs.

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Digital health, eHealth, Systematic reviews, Meta-analysisSurvey