Features of Cancer mHealth Apps and Evidence for Patient Preferences: Scoping Literature Review

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JMIR Cancer


Background: Cancer is increasingly being treated as a chronic disease rather than an acute one-time illness. Additionally, oral anticancer therapies, as opposed to intravenous chemotherapy, are now available for an increasing number of cancer indications. Mobile health (mHealth) apps for use on mobile devices (eg, smartphones or tablets) are designed to help patients with medication adherence, symptom tracking, and disease management. Several previous literature reviews have been conducted regarding mHealth apps for cancer. However, these studies did not address patient preferences for the features of cancer mHealth apps. Objective: The primary aim was to review the scientific literature that describes the features and functions of mHealth apps designed for cancer self-management. Methods: As the purpose of this review was to explore the depth and breadth of research on mHealth app features for cancer self-management, a scoping review methodology was adopted. Four databases were used for this review: PubMed/MEDLINE, Embase, CINAHL, and PsycINFO. Citation and reference searches were conducted for manuscripts meeting the inclusion criteria. A gray literature search was also conducted. Data extracted from manuscripts included author, title, publication date, study type, sampling type, cancer type, treatment, age of participants, features, availability (free or subscription), design input, and patient preferences. Finally, the features listed for each app were compared, highlighting similarities across platforms as well as featuresunique to each app. Results: After the removal of duplicates, 522 manuscripts remained for the title and abstract review, with 51 undergoing full-text review. A total of 7 manuscripts (referred to as studies hereafter) were included in the final scoping review. App features described in each study varied from 2 to 11, with a median of 4 features per app. The most reported feature was a symptom or side effect tracker, which was reported in 6 studies. Two apps specified the inclusion of patients and health care providers during the design, while 1 app noted that IT and communications experts provided design input. The utility of the apps for end users was measured in several ways, including acceptability (measuring the end users'experience), usability (assessing the functionality and performance by observing real users completing tasks), or qualitative data (reports from end users collected from interviews or focus groups). Conclusions: This review explored the literature on cancer mHealth apps. Popular features within these mHealth apps include symptom trackers, cancer education, and medication trackers. However, these apps and features are often developed with little input from patients. Additionally, there is little information regarding patient preferences for the features of existing apps. While the number of cancer-related apps available for download continues to increase, further exploration of patient preferences for app features could result in apps that better meet patient disease self-management needs.



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