The Potential of Self-Management mHealth for Pediatric Cystic Fibrosis: Mixed-Methods Study for Health Care and App Assessment

Background: Remote care services and patient empowerment have boosted mobile health (mHealth). A study of user needs related to mHealth for pediatric cystic fibrosis (PCF) identified the set of preferred features mobile apps should support; however, the potential use of PCF apps and their suitability to fit into PCF clinical management remains unexplored.

Objective: We examine whether PCF holds potential for the implementation of mHealth care.

Methods: The study is based on a literature review and qualitative analysis of content and was conducted in two parts: (1) we reviewed scientific and gray literature to explore how European countries manage PCF and conducted a qualitative study of 6 PCF units and (2) we performed a systematic review of apps available in the repository searching for cystic fibrosis (CF) management and nutrition apps, which we analyzed for characteristics, business models, number of downloads, and usability.

Results: European CF routine care guidelines are acknowledged in most European countries, and treatments are fully covered in almost all countries. The majority of teams in CF units are interdisciplinary. With respect to the systematic review of apps, we reviewed 12 apps for CF management and 9 for general nutrition management in the directory. All analyzed apps provided functionalities for recording aspects related to the disease and nutrition such as medication, meals, measurements, reminders, and educational material. None of the apps reviewed in this study supported pancreatic enzyme replacement therapy. CF apps proved to be less appealing and usable than nutrition apps (2.66 [SD 1.15] vs 4.01 [SD 0.90]; P<.001, z-value: –2.6). User needs detected in previous research are partially matched by current apps for CF management.

Conclusions: The health care context for PCF is a unique opportunity for the adoption of mHealth. Well-established clinical guidelines, heterogeneous clinical teams, and coverage by national health care systems provide a suitable scenario for the use of mHealth solutions. However, available apps for CF self-management do not cover essential aspects such as nutrition and education. To increase the adoption of mHealth for CF self-management, new apps should include these features.

Martinez-Millana, A; Zettl, A; Floch, J; Calvo-Lerma, J; Sevillano, JL; Ribes-Koninckx, C; Traver, V (2019). The Potential of Self-Management mHealth for Pediatric Cystic Fibrosis: Mixed-Methods Study for Health Care and App Assessment. JMIR Mhealth Uhealth 2019;7(4):e13362

DOI: 10.2196/13362
PMID: 30998222