Effectiveness of mobile applications for behavioral changes in health: a systematic review





Mobile Applications; Health; Software; Systematic Review; Health Behavior.


Objective: to evaluate the effectiveness of mobile applications for behavioral changes focused in health. Methods: systematic review, from the PubMed, SCOPUS, Cochrane, PsycINFO, CINAHL, and Medline. The descriptors used were: Mobile applications and Health. The study used the protocol Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic reviews and Meta-Analyses, and the methodological quality was evaluated using the Joanna Briggs Institute® instrument. The final sample was made up of eight articles. Results: most randomized clinical trials showed that interventions with applications are potentially effective strategies to change behavior in health, especially when associated to other strategies in accordance to the specific population/context. The articles included in the review were in accordance to at least nine of the thirteen questions of methodological quality evaluation. Conclusion: the use of applications has impacts on behavioral change and contributes for positive results in the state of health.


Barra DCC, Paim SMS, Sasso GTM, Colla GW. Methods for developing mobile apps in health: an integrative review of the literature. Texto Contexto Enferm. 2017; 26(4):e2260017. doi: https://doi.org/10.1590/0104-07072017002260017

Gomes MLS, Rodrigues IR, Moura NS, Bezerra KC, Lopes BB, Teixeira JJD, et al. Evaluation of mobile Apps for health promotion of pregnant women with preeclampsia. Acta Paul Enferm. 2019; 32(3):275-81. doi: https://doi.org/10.1590/1982-0194201900038

Roberts S, Chaboyer W, Gonzalez R, Marshall A. Using technology to engage hospitalized patients in their care: a realist review. BMC Health Serv Res. 2017; 17(1):388. doi: https://doi.org/10.1186/s12913-017-2314-0

Silva AMA, Mascarenhas VHA, Araújo SNM, Machado RS, Santos AMR, Andrade EMLR. Mobile technologies in the Nursing area. Rev Bras Enferm. 2018; 71(5):2570-8. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/0034-7167-2017-0513

Keyworth C, Hart J, Thoong H, Ferguson J, Tully M. A technological innovation to reduce prescribing errors based on implementation intentions: the acceptability and feasibility of my prescribe. JMIR Hum Factors. 2017; 4(3):e17. doi: https://doi.org/10.2196/humanfactors.7153

Schoeppe S, Alley S, Rebar AL, Hayman M, Bray NA, Lippevelde WV, et al. Apps to improve diet, physical activity and sedentary behaviour in children and adolescents: a review of quality, features and behaviour change techniques. Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act. 2017; 14(1):83. doi: https://doi.org/10.1186/s12966-017-0538-3

Baron J, Mcbain H, Newman S. The impact of mobile monitoring technologies on glycosylated hemoglobin in diabetes: a systematic review. J Diabetes Sci Technol. 2012; 6(5):1185-96. doi: https://doi.org/10.1177/193229681200600524

McCall N, Cromwell J. Results of the Medicare Health Support disease-management pilot program. N Engl J Med. 2011; 365(18):1704-12. doi: https://doi.org/10.1056/NEJMsa1011785

Rios LE. ABC of behaviour theories: critical review. Rev Bras Educ Med. 2017; 41(2):356-8. doi: https://doi.org/10.1590/1981-52712015v41n2rb20160085

Fernandes MP, Marin HF. Uso de aplicativos móveis para o controle de dietas em adultos: uma revisão sistemática integrativa. J Health Inform [Internet]. 2018 [cited Mai 14, 2020]; 10(4):119-24. Available from: http://www.jhi-sbis.saude.ws/ojs-jhi/index.php/jhi-sbis/article/view/562/343

Arrais RF, Crotti PLR. Revisão: aplicativos para dispositivos móveis (“Apps”) na automonitorização em pacientes diabéticos. J Health Inform [Internet]. 2015 [cited Apr 13, 2020]; 7(4):127-3. Available from: https://pdfs.semanticscholar.f31/8e36bf18ac629e7efdd2b5739993458b2c03.pdf

Aromataris E, Munn Z. Joanna Briggs Institute Reviewer’s Manual. The Joanna Briggs Institute [Internet]. 2017 [cited Apr 13, 2020]. Available from:https://reviewersmanual.joannabriggs.org/

Stillwell SB, Fineout-Overholt E, Melnyk BM, Williamson KM. Evidence-based practice: step by step: the seven steps of evidence-based practice. Am J Nurs. 2010; 110(1):51-3. doi: https://doi.org/10.1097/01.NAJ.0000366056.06605.d2

Buller DB, Berwick M, Lantz K, Buller MK, Shane J, Kane I, et al. Evaluation of immediate and 12-week effects of a smartphone sun-safety mobile application a randomized clinical trial. JAMA Dermatol. 2015; 151(5):505-12. doi: https://doi.org/10.1001/jamadermatol.2014.3894

Svetkey LP, Batch BC, Lin PH, Intille SS, Corsino L, Tyson CC, et al. Cell phone intervention for you (CITY): a randomized, controlled trial of behavioral weight loss intervention for young adults using mobile technology. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2015; 23(11):2133-41. doi: https://doi.org/10.1002/oby.21226

Anzaldo-Campos MA, Contreras S, Vargas-Ojeda A, Menchaca-Dı´az R, Fortmann A, Philis-Tsimikas A. Dulce wireless Tijuana: a randomized control trial evaluating the impact of project dulce and short-term mobile technology on glycemic control in a family medicine clinic in northern Mexico. Diabetes Technol Ther. 2016; 18(4):240-51. doi: https://doi.org/10.1089/dia.2015.0283

Martin SS, Feldman DI, Blumenthal RS, Jones SR, Post WS, McKibben RA, et al. Active: a randomized clinical trial of an automated mhealth intervention for physical activity promotion. J Am Heart Assoc. 2015; 4:e002239. doi: https://doi.org/10.1161/JAHA.115.002239

Karhula T, Vuorinen AL, Rääpysjärvi K, Pakanen M, Itkonen P, Tepponen M, et al. Telemonitoring and mobile phone-based health coaching among finish diabetic and heart disease patients: randomized controlled trial. J Med Internet Res. 2015; 17(6):e153. doi: https://doi.org/10.2196/jmir.4059

Van der Weegen S, Verwey R, Spreeuwenberg M, Tange H, Van der Weijden T, Witte L. It’s life! mobile and web-based monitoring and feedback tool embedded in primary care increases physical activity: a cluster randomized controlled trial. J Med Internet Res. 2015; 17(7):e184. doi: https://doi.org/10.2196/jmir.4579

Lund S, Boas IM, Bedesa T, Fekede W, Nielsen HS, Sørensen BL. Association between the safe delivery app and quality of care and perinatal survival in Ethiopia a randomized clinical trial. JAMA Pediatr. 2016; 170(8):765-71. doi: https://doi.org/10.1001/jamapediatrics.2016.0687

Mummah S, Robinson TN, Mathur M, Farzinkhou S, Sutton S, Gardner CD. Effect of a mobile app intervention on vegetable consumption in overweight adults: a randomized controlled trial. Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act. 2017; 14(1):125. doi: https://doi.org/10.1186/s12966-017-0563-2

Alley S, Schoeppe S, Guertler D, Jennings CA, Duncan MJ, Vandelannote C. Interest and preferences for using advanced physical activity tracking devices: results of a national cross-sectional survey. BMJ Open. 2016; 6(7):e011243. doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmjopen-2016-011243

Wilson K, Atkinson KM, Westeinde J. Apps for immunization: Leveraging mobile devices to place the individual at the center of care. Hum Vaccin Immunother. 2015; 11(10):2395-9. doi: https://doi.org/10.1080/21645515.2015.1057362

Dennisson L, Morrison L, Conway G, Yardley L. Opportunities and challenges for smartphone applications in supporting health behavior change: qualitative study. J Med Internet Res. 2013; 15(4):e86. doi: https://doi.org/10.2196/jmir.2583

Vêscovi SJB, Primo CC, Sant’Anna HC, Bringuete MEO, Rohr RV, Prado TN, et al. Mobile application for evaluation of feet in people with diabetes mellitus. Acta Paul Enferm. 2017; 30(6):607-13. doi: https://doi.org/10.1590/1982-0194201700087



How to Cite

Paula, T. R., Menezes, A. P. de ., Guedes, N. G., Silva, V. M. da, Cardoso, M. V. L. M. L., & Ramos, E. de S. . (2020). Effectiveness of mobile applications for behavioral changes in health: a systematic review. Rev Rene, 21, e43845. https://doi.org/10.15253/2175-6783.20202143845



Review Article