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Evolution and current status of mhealth research: a systematic review
  1. Eskinder Eshetu Ali1,
  2. Lita Chew1,2,
  3. Kevin Yi-Lwern Yap1
  1. 1Faculty of Science, Department of Pharmacy, National University of Singapore, Singapore
  2. 2Department of Pharmacy, National Cancer Centre Singapore, Singapore
  1. Correspondence to Dr Kevin Yi-Lwern Yap, Department of Pharmacy, Faculty of Science, National University of Singapore, Block S4A, 18 Science Drive 4, Singapore 117543, Singapore; kevinyap.ehealth{at}


This systematic review provides a chronological overview of how mhealth research has evolved with changes in mobile technologies. The review involved a PubMed search complemented by manual searching of all issues of the Journal of Medical Internet Research and Telemedicine Journal and eHealth, from inception to January 2015. Articles reporting the evaluation of mhealth interventions in any patient group for any health-related outcomes were analysed without restrictions on the study design. A total of 3476 publications were obtained from the PubMed search and manual searching of eHealth journals. Analysis was based on an abstract review of 515 (14.8%) original research articles, which fulfilled preset inclusion criteria. Three distinct time periods were identified on the basis of mobile devices used in mhealth research. Personal digital assistants (PDAs) dominated mhealth research in the years before 2007 (17 of 33 articles, 51.5%). Basic and feature phones were the main methods of mhealth intervention from 2007 to 2012 (95 of 193 articles, 49.2%). After 2012, smart devices (smartphones, tablet PCs and iPod touches) were highly used in mhealth research (173 of 289 articles, 59.9%). Despite a growing focus on infectious diseases and maternal and child health in the most recent years, non-communicable conditions continued to overshadow the trend of mhealth research. Overall, mHealth research has evolved over the past decade in terms of the mobile devices employed, health conditions addressed and its purpose. While chronic medical conditions have clearly been the focus of mhealth research, a shift in trends is expected as the application of mhealth interventions spreads to other under-studied areas. Future research should continue to leverage on the advancements and ubiquitous nature of mobile devices to make healthcare accessible to all.

  • mHealth research
  • mobile devices
  • mobile technologies
  • eHealth
  • smart devices

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