Additional research necessary to show benefits of digital health app use by teens

A review of studies focused on how and if mobile apps benefit adolescents dealing with chronic illness reveals greater investigation is needed to provide deeper evidence of the benefits of such tools.

However, there also is reason to believe digital health apps can and are helping young patients managing ailments such as asthma, Type 1 diabetes and cancer, according to a paper published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research (JMIR), authored by a team of British physicians and medical professionals.

The paper features an in-depth examination of research on apps used to boost treatment of adolescent illness. Of a potential pool of 1,120 studies, just four of 19 full-text papers met the research criteria.

"The dearth of studies and the small overall sample size emphasizes the need for future studies of the development, evaluation use, and effectiveness of mobile apps to support adolescents' personal management of their conditions," the paper's authors write. They also note that despite the tens of thousands of apps focused on health issues, there is a "paucity" of evidence-based apps to be used by young patients.

A recent paper published in JMIR found that a mobile app could prove valuable in preventive intervention programs for adolescents dealing with a range of issues, from drug use to sexually transmitted disease. And another study found that text messages are helping teen diabetics engaged in healthcare issues and treatment.

For more information:
- read the JMIR paper