Chronic diseases have emerged as a serious threat for health, as well as for global development. They endenger considerably increased health care costs and diminish the productivity of the adult population group and, therefore, create a burden on health, as well as on the global economy. As the management of chronic diseases involves long-term care, often lifelong patient adherence is the key for better health outcomes. We carried out a systematic literature review on the impact of mobile health interventions -mobile phone texts and/or voice messages- in high, middle and low income countries to ascertain the impact on patients' adherence to medical advice, as well as the impact on health outcomes in cases of chronic diseases.
The review identified fourteen related studies following the defined inclusion and exclusion criteria, in PubMed, Cochrane Library, the Library of Congress, and Web Sciences. All the interventions were critically analysed according to the study design, sample size, duration, tools used, and the statistical methods used for analysing the primary data. Impacts of the different interventions on outcomes of interest were also analysed.
The findings showed evidence of improved adherence, as well as health outcomes in disease management, using mobile Short Message Systems and/or Voice Calls. Significant improvement has been found on adherence with taking medicine, following diet and physical activity advice, as well as improvement in clinical parameters like HbA1c, blood glucose, blood cholesterol and control of blood pressure and asthma.
Though studies showed positive impacts on adherence and health outcomes, three caveats should be considered, (i) there was no clear understanding of the processes through which interventions worked; (ii) none of the studies showed cost data for the m-health interventions and (iii) only short term impacts were captured, it remains unclear whether the effects are sustained. More research is needed in these three areas before drawing concrete conclusions and making suggestions to policy makers for further decision and implementation.