Systematic Review of Mobile Health Applications in Rehabilitation

Published:August 29, 2018DOI:



      To conduct systematic review to better define how medical mobile applications (apps) have been used in environments relevant to physical medicine and rehabilitation.

      Data Sources

      PUBMED, IEEE, ACM Digital Library, SCOPUS, INSPEC, and EMBASE.

      Study Selection

      A 10-year date limit was used, spanning publication dates from June 1, 2006, to June 30, 2016. Terms related to physical medicine and rehabilitation as well as mobile apps were used in 10 individual search strategies.

      Data Extraction

      Two investigators screened abstracts and applied inclusion and exclusion criteria. Full-length articles were retrieved. Duplicate articles were removed. If a study met all criteria, the article was reviewed in full.

      Data Synthesis

      Specific variables of interest were extracted and added to summary tables. Summary tables were used to categorize studies according themes, and a list of app features was generated.


      The search yielded abstracts from 8116 studies, and 102 studies were included in the systematic review. Approximately one-third of the studies evaluated apps as interventions, and the remaining two-thirds of the studies assessed functioning of the app or participant interaction with the app. Some apps may have positive benefits when used to deliver exercise or gait training interventions, as self-management systems, or as measurement tools.


      The protocol was registered with the International Prospective Register of Systematic Reviews (PROSPERO) network (no. CRD42016046672).


      List of abbreviations:

      App (application), COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder), EHR (electronic health record), FDA (Food and Drug Administration), GPS (Global Positioning System), HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996), mHealth (mobile health), PDA (personal digital assistant), PM&R (physical medicine and rehabilitation), RCT (randomized controlled trial), TBI (traumatic brain injury)
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